|That "Other Lady"
Is Gone Forever
By Donna Wall
|I am sixty years old by the calendar although about thirty-eight
in my mind. I was diagnosed with Bronchitis at the age of twenty-five --
it became chronic by the time I was thirty-three. My husband and I have
been married for forty-three fine years. I am a mom to Terrie, our daughter
and a grandmother to her three children. We have a wonderful family and
many times I have thanked the Lord for seeing to an early start for me.
An early start enabled me to experience all things that were to be and
for the grandchildren while Grammy was healthy and able bodied. The
boys, Jared and Aaron, are 21 and 18 and Joy is our darlin’ girl at 15
years of age. A wait of even five years would have caused me to miss out
on way too much.
My life during all this time was a great one. Being an outgoing personality, I enjoyed my job at a bank where, as a Personal Banking Officer, I could wait on my customers. My husband, Gordon, owned and operated a Commercial Print Shop and I kept books for him. It was a busy and satisfying life for us all. In 1979, I developed exceptionally high blood pressure which was not responding to medication so I went on a medical leave. At that time I was also having episodes of shortness of breath and finally became worried by that fact. Hello!!
One morning while on leave my thoughts turned to exercise, which
certainly could not hurt and might help control the blood pressure some.
Out the door I went with sneakers on and ready to hit the pavement. On
the sidewalk I put one foot out to start a little jog and almost fell on
my fanny. No breath would come, what an eye opener that was! Very shocked
and embarrassed that someone might have seen this episode, I went back
in the house. Short of breath, but instead of thinking cigarettes, it was
clearly because I had become so out of shape at such an early age. I knew
I had chronic bronchitis, but really the only bad times were when it became
acute, and it was not supposed to do this to me. Never did it enter my
mind the bronchitis was scarring my lungs each time it became acute. The
next day back on with the sneakers but this time to the fenced backyard
for privacy I walked very slowly around the yard once. I could not do it
twice. For two weeks the back yard and I were constant company as I walked
my way back into shape. After achieving an hour in the back yard, I again
took the street on, then finally a half mile, then a mile every day. I
thought I was doing very well and managed to go back to work and hold my
own. I went back to work but decided to try something new -- attending
real estate school.. My blood pressure stayed in check with exercise and
medication. The interest rates were astronomical that year and I
only sold three properties. There are a lot of expenses in selling
real estate as well as paying for the classes I took, and paying for my
benefits like health insurance at $252 a month. Money was going out
but not much was coming in so the only logical thing to do was to return
to the bank. That is what I did.
|No, I did not throw the smokes away. Denial allowed me to believe I was OK. I was told to quit smoking when the Doctor told me I had chronic bronchitis. Whether there was more said about it or not, I can't recall. I feel sure he did and evidently everything was put out of my mind, it couldn’t have been what I wanted to hear. Not wise, I agree, nevertheless it happened. I had been under this Doctor’s care since I was eighteen and he had been on me to quit every time I saw him. Now I know he meant each letter of the warnings. He gave them with all his dedication to saving lives and knowing in his mind what I was to be faced with ahead. Smoking began at the early age of fourteen; the addiction came with the first one I smoked. After all the reasons to smoke were numerous. For instance; when I awoke from a nights sleep, when happy, when sad, nervous, hungry, satiated, tired, thirsty, anxious, disappointed, lonely, they were always near by. Why cigarettes can make anyone think they are ones best friend is amazing, yet I took them everywhere. However, the truth is known now and it is the nicotine and hundreds of other chemicals to keep people like me addicted and shelling out money for something that can stifle an active life. From 1981 to 1985 I attended five different stop smoking programs and a hypnotist. Nothing worked, as I was not able to say I want to quit smoking, with conviction. It is insidious, addicting and had taken the energy and vitality that had been mine. The habit and addiction were well ingrained into my being and life. Still in denial I was mad but at the wrong things, not cigarettes.|
Chronic bronchitis attacks were becoming more frequent, lasting a longer time, and were more difficult to recover from as time flew on by. 1986 came and the party was over -- the bad coughing was happening all of the time now, the congestion was with me most of the time. This is when the diagnosis of degenerative disk disease in my neck was made. My neck was not strong enough to hold my head up nor could I hold my arms out from my body for more than a few minutes. COPD was now described as severe. Another sick leave with extension after extension until the bank advised me to put in for my Long-Term disability along with that you file for Social Security disability. All the while I’m thinking I would be back to work in a month at the longest. That was not to be; both claims were approved and that was it. No more career. In 1987 I became permanently disabled due to severe COPD. The depression was overwhelming. What will I do, I’ve worked all my life, even though my interests were many and hobbies were numerous, my feeling was of complete loss at that time.
With help of new medications, life style changes and time, life started taking on a new meaning. Being able to spend all the time I wanted with Terrie and the children was wonderful. The house was a big job and took up a lot of time. Everyone knows how big even a small house seems when it has to be taken care of at a snails pace. Soon, I became interested in activities that were possible to achieve. Actually things went all right except the loss of daily contact with the public and getting dressed for being in public. I became a jeans and sweatshirt kind of gal, full time, instead of suits and heels. Silly, however, I seemed to even miss that later when I had forgotten what a chore it had been just to make it to the office the last year. My grandchildren and I spent lots of time at the zoo, Chuck E Cheese also awarded them extra tokens for each A earned on their report card so that was a big deal, and they collected. Also we took advantage of visiting the local History, Rail Road and Science museums, and the State Capitol. What we spent lots of time doing was picking on my loving husband, Gordon, AKA Grampa.
In 1996 my crash came, somehow I managed to walk into emergency but was afraid and thinking I might never go home. ICU for three days and then had to be intubated for six of the thirteen-day stay--ventilator, steroids and all. Without Gordon being there day and night I might not have come home, but I did and I am still thanking him for all he has done and continues to do as my caregiver. This experience was extremely difficult afterward; there was no memory of the three days prior to being intubated nor the six days while on the ventilator. Even my memory of little daily chores were a mystery to me like where does the money come from that I write checks on? The first thing I ask my Doctor in an awake state was “What has happened to me, did I have a stroke?” His answer was so compassionate--he said as I recall, “It is not anything you have done, my dear, we need to get you home, people get sick in places like this.” No stroke just a side effect of the medicines I was given not to remember the agonizing experience, I am told now. Happy to report I quickly got the money and the checkbook thing clear in my mind. It was so frustrating not to be able to remember that the money came from Social Security and LTD for me to write the checks out in the first place. That part just could not be recalled at the time. My return home was made easier by my husband's planning. Everything had been choreographed as a fine ballet and went very well. My daughter called one morning to inquire how I was doing and Gordon replied, "Well, she is sitting up in bed with the check book and lots of catalogs." They both knew at that moment I was back and pretty darn normal for me.
Timing was not good, as it was necessary for us to take our building back that we had sold and carried a five-year note on. The buyer had filed bankruptcy. Gordon’s print shop had been located downstairs and two apartments upstairs. It was a shamble. By August 1, the details were worked out and we took possession wow. Being up and about but huffing and puffing we started the renovation. Somewhere during this time I picked up the smokes again. I designated myself as chief spackler and plasterer, the only thing I knew how to do, until the painting came along. At home the curtains, roman shades, and all the dressings were keeping me working and busy on days there was no on site work to be done. After a considerable amount of time we decided to make the apartments into one living area and move there. A quick sale was not looking good and we were concerned about it being vacant. The other house was rented out. We are now settled in our new old home and are quite happy with the out come. I only share this happening with you as now I believe the forced activity and work saved my life once more. Had this whole negative situation not happened I may have stayed in the bed and deteriorated, but I had to get up and work to help Gordon. Building up muscles, stamina and the great feeling of accomplishing something gave me the will to keep on plugging. A wonderful opportunity came along also, Pulmonary Rehabilitation at a local hospital recommended by my Doctors. We attended three days a week and were taught by a phenomenal Pulmonary Therapist, Pat Hara. She remains a cherished friend and advisor to this day. Now I attend her post rehab exercise classes three days a week at my own expense and it is more than worth every penny. There were only two of us in the original Rehab class and Pat made it fun, taught us how to not panic, achieve chores more easily, gave us hundreds of new tips as well as the proper use of all the equipment newly issued to us. We even discussed ways to get out of the car more comfortably and ways to protect our bones. Well you probably know all this and more. Finally I was clued in to so many secrets that could help me function better. My breathing became easier and the exercises she gave each day allowed me to gain even more stamina. She had my buddy and I walking stairs and laughing again before we were through. Quite a help with the self esteem loss also. My rehab buddy as I call her, the other person in this class has become a dear and trusted friend and we communicate each day.
|In October 1998 it was a 911-day and again I had pneumonia no ventilator but a nine-day stay and BiPap then home. This time it was different though as I knew this time my smoking was the reason pneumonia was catching me so often. The plan was formed. You will laugh and so do I now but at the time it was horrific. I made myself sit down and write I hate cigarettes over and over and over. Hoping my mind would believe it because I still did not want to quit but knew I must. After a week of writing my hundred sentences of why I hated smokes I put them down. Three times my husband had to get them out of the garbage three times I broke his heart but the fourth time I threw the pack out the upstairs window in front of him and said, “I will never ask for them again”. He was relieved and delighted. I was miserable.||
The other most important thing I did for myself was to realize that the lady I used to be was gone forever. From that moment on I would be a very different lady, not in mind but in actions and ability to run, and take on the world and all it’s problems to solve. My life had already changed but not my mind, I still wanted my old self back, it broke me completely watching Gordon doing everything and worrying so about me. That was always my job, worrying and doing all the things wives do. This was not satisfying to be waited on, instead of waiting on others. Well, I held a little ceremony in which I introduced the new Donna to myself and decided my health had to come first or I would not have a world at all. So I have now learned to accept the fact I have to do everything slowly and with lots of planning for each move that is to be made. My memories are wonderful ones of when I was trying to be or acting like Wonder Woman. But now it is time for me, although through need not desire, to like this new lady. She is here to still nurture and encourage the grands when they will allow it. She will encourage my husband and daughter and enjoy every moment that they are available. Also, she will take the time to smell the coffee and the scent of flowers, so the sayings go, that most likely were missed occasionally by that other lady.
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