Health

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For most of the early years of human history, when a person’s heart gave out…or any other organ, for that matter, it was often the end of that person. Doctors could only do so much, and there are certain body parts that we cannot live without. Of course, these days all that has changed. What used to be considered Frankensteinish, is now a part of modern medicine, and it is saving lives every day. Of course, I don’t think an actual head transplant has ever been done successfully, but many organs are successfully transplanted every day, and every day we hear about some other organ they can transplant…I even read somewhere, and of course, this could be fiction, that they were close to being able to do a brain transplant. I have to admit that the idea of a brain transplant is beyond what I can conceive, but it’s hard to say what is possible…especially when the first heart transplant seemed impossible before December 3, 1967.

On that day, 53 year old received the first human heart transplant at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa. Washkansky was a South African grocer dying from chronic heart disease. Then, Denise Darvall, a 25 year old woman was fatally injured in a car accident. Surgeon Christiaan Barnard, who had trained at the University of Cape Town and in the United States, performed the revolutionary medical operation. The technique Barnard employed had been initially developed by a group of American researchers in the 1950s. American surgeon Norman Shumway achieved the first successful heart transplant, in a dog, at Stanford University in California in 1958, but prior to that time, transplants were simply a theory.

A successful heart transplant, or any transplant for that matter, does not necessarily mean a long life after the transplant…unfortunately. After Washkansky’s surgery, he was given drugs to suppress his immune system and keep his body from rejecting the heart. Those drugs worked well, in that Washkansky’s new heart had functioned normally until his death. Nevertheless, these drugs also left him susceptible to sickness, and 18 days later he died from double pneumonia. While losing him was a devastating setback, in the realm of transplants, the operation was an amazing success. Still, a successful transplant was not going to help people to survive, if the anti-rejection medications stifle the immune system and cause the patient to get sick and die of other illnesses that would have been harmless otherwise.

In the 1970s, the development of better anti-rejection drugs gave new hope to the transplantation program. Dr. Barnard continued to perform heart transplant operations, and by the late 1970s many of his patients were living up to five years with their new hearts. Successful heart transplant surgery continues to be performed today, but finding appropriate donors is extremely difficult, because the donor must be a match to the patient in blood type and other factors. All too often, the patient waiting for a transplant, dies before a viable donor can found.

Sometimes, changes occur when we least expect them. That is was happened with my daughter, Corrie Petersen, who found herself in a job that really held no future for her, even after she gave them almost 24 years of her life. Everyone wants to know that they are going to have a chance be promoted and move up in the company, but that was not to be the case, so after listening to the wisdom of God, Corrie made a bold move and went back to school. Corrie has been a caregiver, along with the rest of our family since 2005 when her grandpa, my dad, Allen Spencer got sick. Over the following ten years she was very active in the caregiving process, first with my dad, then my mom, and then her Schulenberg grandparents, and now she cares for her husband, Kevin. I don’t know how we could have managed with out Corrie and others in the family who, just like her, stepped up to pitch in, when we found out that caregiving takes a village.

When it came to Corrie that if she wanted to move up in a job, she needed a change, she naturally chose nursing, and began a journey that would bring about many changes and take her to levels of confidence she didn’t know she possessed. She went back to school, after 23 years, and conquered not only the classes, but her own uneasiness about taking them. I am happy to report that she is having great success in her studies. Corrie also took the CNA class at Shepherd of the Valley Care Center, knowing that when she started nursing school, she would no longer be able to keep the job she had, because the nursing program is held during the day. She passed the CNA program with flying colors and applied for a job at Elkhorn Valley Rehabilitation Hospital. She was hired right away, and today begins her new career as a CNA, or according to them, Patient Care Technician…temporarily anyway, because Corrie’s journey doesn’t end there. She has other plans in mind.

She will have other new beginnings as she continues her journey toward her degree as a Registered Nurse, so this is temporary, but it is nevertheless, very exciting. This is what she has dreamed about since this journey started. She knows the work will be hard, but it is also very rewarding as she also knows, since she has basically been doing this work for twelve years already. I am so excited for my daughter, as she starts this new adventure, and so proud of her for taking the necessary steps to achieve her goals. The future is going to be a bright one for her, and I can’t wait to watch the changes as she decides her future plans in her nursing career. Congratulations Corrie. Have a wonderful first night at work. We are so proud of you!!

After losing his brother and his dad before he was nine years of age, my Uncle Jim Richards stepped up as a man in his family. Young as he was, he took on the role of a man, letting his family know that he would always be there for them. And so he was. Over the years, when one or the other of his family members needed help, Uncle Jim kept that promise…he was there for them. He took care of his mother, and helped with my grandparents, who were the parents of his wife, my Aunt Dixie. He helped several of his siblings and got them back on solid ground again. He proved himself to be a responsible man of the house…long after he was grown. He kept that promise to his dad, that his dad didn’t even have to ask of him. Uncle Jim did it because he wanted to show respect and honor to his dad, and because of his great love for his family.

After his marriage to my Aunt Dixie, and the arrival of their three children, Jim, Jeannie, and Raylynn…Uncle Jim set about building close family ties with his kids. His gentle ways and hard work made their home a place the family always wanted to be. Uncle Jim worked hard at his job, but when he came home…it was family time, and nothing else mattered. His kids always knew that their Dad was going to be there for them. As the kids grew up and got married, the grandchildren began to arrive. Uncle Jim was a man for whom family was the most important thing in life, and that showed with in the love he and Aunt Dixie had for their grandchildren. After his retirement, he joined Aunt Dixie, who already babysat the grandchildren, chauffeured them to and from school, and delivered an occasional payment or two to the proper places, while their children worked. His kids didn’t worry about things, because they know that their dad and mom are there for them. The grandchildren are safe and cared for, even when their parents are at work. That gives a parent a wonderful sense of peace concerning their kids, and not every parent has the option to have hands on grandparents.

Through thick and thin, sickness and health, richer and poorer, and all things in between, the Richards family has been able to count on Uncle Jim…especially in the worst of times, like the premature passing of a grandson, Jonah Williams; and now, a son-in-law, Darryl Liegman. Uncle Jim is a quiet man, but he has a strength that the family leans on in times of sorrow and need, and he is there for them. When he saw the need to help others at such a young age, he took the call seriously. He was there for every part of his family, for all the years of his life, and his loving kindness seems to radiate from him. Anyone who is around him can see it and they can feel it. Uncle Jim is just that way. His motto is: I’ll be there for you. And he has never let them down. Today is Uncle Jim’s 80th birthday. Happy birthday Uncle Jim!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Last night as my husband, Bob and I were heading out for our evening walk at about 7:15pm, we were met by a concerto of song coming from the pine tree in our next door neighbor’s yard. Of course, it was the birds settling down for the night, since it was heading into the evening hours. I was immediately reminded of the day of the total eclipse that Casper had just been in the center of. As the sky grew darker, the birds began hurrying to and fro in search of their places for the night. They began singing their evening songs, just as they were doing when we stepped out of our front door last night. Birds, of course, are programmed to begin bedtime preparations as the daylight starts to fade, unlike humans who might not go to sleep until the wee hours of the morning.

The concerto also reminded me of one of my sister, Cheryl Masterson’s favorite movies…The Sound of Music. Of course, the song they sang on that movie was The Hills Are Alive, and not The Trees Are Alive, but my imagination is allowed to make those little changes…basically taking a little poetic license, and change the wording a little bit to fit the situation. So, while I heard the melody of The Hills Are Alive, the words that sang out were The Trees Are Alive.

Since we began taking evening walks a number of years ago, we have found ourselves rather fascinated with the animal life around us. The birds flying here and there, with what appears to be no specific destination in mind; the rabbit with a broken leg that has managed to survive most of the summer, even though he can’t hop as fast as so many other rabbits; the dogs who are sure that we are their friends, even to the point of vying for our attention with the other dogs in their yard or next door; and even the deer, who stand and watch us, not moving unless we do something to appear to be coming toward them. They are all very interesting in the way they interact with people. The birds don’t seem to want to fly too far from their original spot to get away from us as we approach, almost as if they are saying, “I’m not scared of you.” The rabbits sit bravely still, hoping that we won’t notice them, sometimes allowing us to get only a foot or so away from them, providing we continue to walk along without stopping.

Animals are funny sometimes, doing things that almost seem like human activities, and even the wild animals who seem to want to interact with humans…from a safe distance, anyway. The mourning doves and other birds that like to look at us from their safe perch on the power lines or light poles above us, always strike me as funny. They know we are there, and they seem curious about us, but they don’t want to get too close, after all they aren’t stupid, just curious, as they allow us to share their space. And of course, there is nature’s version of Twitter…when a large group of birds flock to one tree, and everyone is tweeting at once…as was the case when we left for our evening walk last night.

My grand niece, Raelynn Masterson is a sweet girl who looks a lot like her mom, my niece, Dustie Masterson. They are really very much alike in lots of ways. They both love music, and Dustie tells me that it isn’t just one kind of music that Raelynn likes…it’s all kinds of music. I think it is a sign of a true music lover, to love all genres of music, because it doesn’t seem to be the music style that attracts them, but rather each tone on its own and the melody it produces when mixed with other tones.

There is a big part of Raelynn that reminds me of me too. Where do I begin? Raelynn loves to write stories…sound familiar to anyone? This seems to be a pastime that Raelynn and her peers are all into these days. She love reading their stories, and they love reading hers. Her stories are further enhanced with her own anime drawings to help tell the story. Now this is where we very much differ, because I cannot draw, so my stories are accompanied by photos. Her mom says that while she doesn’t pretend to understand Raelynn’s love of anime, she can easily see the beauty of her drawings, and the beauty in the stories that accompany the drawings. Another way in which Raelynn reminds me of me is that she loves police procedural shows like Bones and Criminal Minds. I love those shows too, as well as NCIS and CSI, which I’m sure she likes as well. I think it might be the scientist that lives in both of us. We may not be trained scientists, but we really appreciate the scientific procedures and their outcomes. We are both utter geeks. Raelynn learned a Viking game that is a cross between Chess and Tic-Tac-Toe. She recently learned to play at the Science Museum in Denver and the lady that taught her said she did very well…more of the geek I think.

I think most women, especially have the ability to multi-task, but some do it much better that others. When Dustie told me (and I’ve seen it for myself when I’ve been at her house) that Raelynn is an exceptional multi-tasker, it was like someone took a picture of me in the evenings when I’m not on a walk. Raelynn loves to do all these things…reading, writing, drawing, police procedural shows…and she does them at the same time…and doesn’t miss a beat on any one of them. That is the mark of a true multi-tasker, and I find that exceptional!! Raelynn and I both love cats…seriously, is this girl related to me or what? If you need to find the family cat, Lewie inside the house, just find Raelynn, because she is Lewie’s human…and that’s all there is too it. Lewie doesn’t really like the family dog, Missy, and so his favorite place to be in the whole world is with his human. He loves to lay beside her, and she in kind pets him and makes him feel safe and loved.

Recently, Raelynn proved what a strong person she is, when she went through a life changing surgery for scoliosis. Raelynn’s life thus far has been spent with limited mobility and much pain, and yet, she never complained. She had to tell her friends sometimes, that she couldn’t do certain things, because if she bent over, as if to touch her toes, you could see that her spine was near her shoulder blade, and it caused her great pain. Nevertheless, she wasn’t a whiner…or a quitter. She pursued her dreams with a gusto, often ignoring the pain to do the things she wanted to do. She wore a back brace for years and while it really limited movement, she didn’t complain. Now, post surgery, she is healing quickly and is off of all prescription pain meds. She is a shining example of what God can do, if you allow Him to. She is a God-given blessing to her parents, and indeed her whole family. Today, Raelynn turns 14 years old. She is growing into a beautiful young woman. Happy birthday Raelynn!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My aunt, Jeanette Byer is one tough lady. She has lived in the country for most of her life, and she is no stranger to hard work. In fact, I’m sure that is what has kept her young all these years. Aunt Jeanette is one lady who simply doesn’t know the word quit. She broke her leg one time, and she insisted that she could still do what she needed to do. So, with a crutch under one arm, and a weed-eater in the other hand, she proceeded to cut the weeds long the fence on their property. Aunt Jeanette simply would not let a little thing like a broken leg slow her down. She says, that she was raised in the country, and out there, you just do whatever you have to do…hard work and all. It was how you made a go of things in the country.

Aunt Jeanette’s sister-in-law, my aunt, Sandy Pattan told me something about Aunt Jeanette that is probably one of the nicest things I’ve ever heard said about a person. She said that Aunt Jeanette never had an unkind word to say about anybody. I was somewhat stunned about that. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe that about Aunt Jeanette, because I had no reason to doubt it. It was stunned because…seriously, how many people can honestly have that said about them, and yet there were several other people who said the same thing about Aunt Jeanette. She simply didn’t gossip, or say a harsh word about anyone. What an amazing tribute that is! I’ve thought about that statement since I first heard it.

What kind of person literally never says an unkind word about anyone? This must be a very forgiving person. I have known Aunt Jeanette all my life. She is a very sweet person, and I have always loved her very much. I can’t think of a time that I ever heard her say an unkind word about anyone. She has always been a fun person, and my husband, Bob and I have always enjoyed talking to her, and to her husband, my Uncle Larry, before his passing. Aunt Jeanette and Uncle Larry were always busy doing things. In fact, the place we often saw them was at Home Depot or Menard’s. They were always fixing something up. I think that is why Aunt Jeanette just never really aged. She stayed busy. Way to go Aunt Jeanette. Today is Aunt Jeanette’s birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Jeanette!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

After a spring filled with pneumonia for my husband, Bob and bronchitis for me, our annual hiking trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota was in question. Not the trip itself really, but the normal amount of hiking that we do, and the trails we normally take. We had determined that our favorite trail, up to Harney Peak was simply out of the question, and our early hikes were the Willow Creek trail, and two days on the Mickelson trail, both considered easy trails. We did exceptionally well, and so we decided that today would be a day for a moderate trail. We used the AllTrails app to make our decision, and settled on the Sunday Gulch trail, which takes off from Sylvan Lake.

When we got to the trailhead, the sign said that it was a strenuous trail that was four miles long and was expected to take two to three hours to complete. The trail’s rating made us hesitate, but we decided that if it got too rough, we would turn around and head back. We began the trail with a down hill hike across the rocks, with handrails to keep you from slipping. Yes…it was that difficult. My instincts said, “Maybe this isn’t such a good idea.” But, insanity won out, and we pressed on. The trail was beautiful, and the air was cool down in the gulch, despite the 90° temperatures up above. We had started the hike early enough, and expected to be done by 11:30am. As we continued down, using several handrails to cross the difficult rocks, I just kept hoping that we didn’t have to go back up those rocks.

After what we now know to be the last of the handrails, we came across the first people we would see. The were a young couple who told us the were beginning hikers. We asked if they had hiked this trail before. They had not, but they told us that the trail ahead was a gradual uphill hike…mostly anyway…with no handrails. My mind felt instant relief. It was short lived. Yes, the hike was a gradual uphill…some of the way, and no, there were no handrails. That doesn’t mean that the hike was easy. Granted we were not in the same shape we had been in years past, but I had hoped that we were in better shape than it seemed we were. The 11:30am mark came and went, with us being apparently no closer to the end of the trail. We were close to the road at times, but there was no guarantee that it would be an easier hike. As we climbed I thought about two things. First, I had probably chosen a trail that was too hard for us. Second, that we were actually more that three quarters of the way through that trail, and while we were tired, we were making it. We were making it!! When we finally reached the end of the trail at 12:30pm, we felt a sense of pride in our accomplishment. We had broken through a barrier, and we made it back. It was the most strenuous, moderate trail we have ever hiked, but we did it, it was beautiful…and that’s what it’s all about.

My grandnephew, Lucas Iverson is turning six today, and he is proudly getting ready to go to Kindergarten. Lucas is a special kid. He has Down’s Syndrome, but he isn’t letting that or anything else slow him down. He has had to work harder than most kids, just to arrive at the same place, but just because it’s been harder, doesn’t mean Lucas will quit. He’s no quitter!!

Going to Kindergarten is going to make for a big year for Lucas, but that isn’t the only big step in Lucas’ next year. Over the next few months, Lucas is going to have some tests and procedures at Children’s Hospital in Denver, Colorado. I’m not sure what they are hoping to find with the tests or the procedures, but I pray they will find a way to make his life easier. His young life has already been filled with tests, and therapy to help with walking and such. Most of us would have wanted to quit long ago, but Lucas just keeps plugging along, because, he’s no quitter!!

Hard work has paid off for Lucas, because he is walking now, and that is a very big accomplishment. I think that his sister, Zoey might have had a lot to do with that. Zoey is just a little over four years younger than Lucas, but since she could walk earlier, she inspired him…and she helped him along. Sh has never been the kind of sister to push Lucas away. She loves him with all her heart. When they are in the playpen, they love to wrestle, and that is good exercise too, so I’m sure it has helped to make Lucas stronger. From what their mom, Cassie has told me, it’s quite a sight. It makes her and their dad, Chris laugh. The kids have a great time too.

Like most kids, Lucas live to watch television and movies. His favorite movie right now is Moana. Now if you’re like me, you might have to look that movie up to see what it is all about. Well, it’s an adventure movie about a teenager who sets out to save her people. Lucas likes that sort of thing. He also likes reading his cardboard books and coloring. I’m sure he’s quite an artist. Lucas is growing into quite a big boy, and it s all because he’s no quitter!! Today is Lucas’ 6th birthday!! Happy birthday sweet Lucas!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

For most of her life, my sister-in-law, Brenda Schulenberg struggled with her weight. Even as a child, Brenda was heavy. She will tell you that her weight prevented her from doing many of the things that most children took for granted, such as riding a bicycle. She might have been able to do it to a degree, but not for very long or very far. As she grew into adulthood, her weight became such a problem that she couldn’t even think of riding a bicycle. Then one day, her health failed due to her weight. She knew that she had to make a change. That day was October 18, 2013…just 5½ months after her dad, Walt Schulenberg passed away. Brenda became a health nut. She learned to eat right, and she walked…slowly and with a walker at first, and later on her own. She walked further and further…often reaching 10 miles a day. The weight came off, and she felt much better. Still, one thing eluded her…riding a bicycle. Finally, the day arrived when Brenda found out that she could ride a bicycle…as long as the peddles were off, and she could reach the ground. It’s called strider riding. It is a bicycle, but the rider basically runs the bicycle down the trail, instead of riding it…and Brenda could do that.

After riding strider style for a time, Brenda was finally able to ride a bicycle in the normal way. She put the peddles back on her purple bicycle and off she went. Brenda became just like the postal service…”Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” Ok, Brenda didn’t have appointed rounds…exactly, but she had set herself a goal of riding her bicycle every month of the year. Now, that is not an easy task, especially in the state of Wyoming, where winters can be brutal. Nevertheless, just like the postal worker, neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor gloom of the very early morning will keep Brenda from riding her bicycle. She is determined to ride it, and make up for all the years that she couldn’t even ride a bicycle in the summertime, much less in the winter.

She’s a brave woman, especially when she goes out in the middle of a snow story, and pretty much turns into a snow woman. She reminds me of the Campbell’s Soup commercial where the little boy is so covered with snow that only a hot bowl of soup will melt away all the snow. Maybe she’s not that bad, but she’s close. Brenda, we are proud of your determination, but I do have to wonder if the people driving by the snow woman on wheels have to rubs their eyes to make sure they are seeing what their eyes are telling them they are seeing. Today is Brenda’s birthday. Happy birthday Brenda!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Brian Cratty, who is my sister-in-law, Jennifer Parmely’s partner, is just as athletic as she is. They love to hike, ski, snow shoe, and a variety of other activities together. Last September, they hiked the Colorado Trail, which culminated in 14,000 foot peak. Jennifer told me that it was pretty difficult, and since that is quite a bit higher than the highest hike I have made, I can only imagine. From what I understand, Brian did very well with it, however. Maybe the fact that Brian is a pilot has something to do with being able to acclimate to those higher altitudes. Brian is retired now, but he spent a number of years flying for Wyoming Medical Center, where Jennifer is a nurse.

While Jennifer likes hiking more than bicycling, the same cannot be said of Brian. When we decided to take a group hike, Brian went off ahead on his bicycle. He crisscrossed all over the trail we were on, but oddly we only saw him once while we hiked. Brian and Jennifer love to spend time on the mountain, and a while back, they came into a sweet deal. They had been using a friends cabin, in exchange for keeping an eye on it, and since he hadn’t been back to Wyoming to use it in quite some time, and had the need for some money to pay medical bills, he offered to sell the cabin to Brian and Jennifer. And they jumped at the chance. Now they spend as much time as they can, at the cabin, fixing it up and just enjoying it. It is going to be really nice when they get it done.

Jennifer has been so happy since she met Brian, and we are all very happy for her. They really make a great team. He is a kindhearted and compassionate person, and that has been a blessing over the past few years, especially when the family lost their dad, Walt Schulenberg. I don’t know if his compassion has to do with his years of flying Life Flight or not, but I tend to think that he is just a very kind person, and he understands the needs of those around him. It is a wonderful trait to have. Today is Brian’s birthday. Happy birthday Brian!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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