surgery

These days, a surgery is performed in comfort, as the patient is under anesthesia, and therefore, feels none of the surgical procedure, at least that is true for most people. There are an unfortunate few for whom anesthesia has little effect. Dr Robert Liston was a pioneering Scottish surgeon, well known for his skills in an era prior to anesthetics, when speed made a difference in terms of pain and survival. For most of us, the idea of a surgery performed in a matter of seconds would not instill much confidence in the doctor…or the procedure, but there was a time when all surgical procedures were performed in this way. People couldn’t take it very long, and the only thing they might have to dull the pain was alcohol…just like we have all seen in the old western movies.

Dr Robert Liston was an expert. He could perform an amputation in seconds. All was going well, and he was a trusted surgeon until 1847, when he was performing an amputation, which he completed in 25 seconds. He was operating so quickly that he accidentally amputated his assistant’s fingers as well. I can only imagine the shock. His was a career filled with skill and excellence, and in an instant, he had a major mistake on his hands.

Dr Liston was famous for his speedy surgeries…often lasting only around 30 seconds. He was well known and respected. In his book “Practical Surgeries,” published in 1837, he emphasizes the importance of quick surgeries, arguing that “these operations must be set about with determination and completed rapidly.” It was all he knew to do. At that time in history, it was the standard of care that everyone expected.

Not everyone believes that the mishap was a true story, and I suppose we will never know, but as the story goes, the case went from bad to worse, when both the patient and the assistant developed sepsis and died. In addition, a spectator reportedly died of shock, meaning that the mortality rate of that one surgery was 300%. While that one surgery was terrible, Dr Liston had many stories of amazing surgeries and miraculous successes. Nevertheless, this one surgery was his most famous. There is a saying by Michael Josephson that goes like this, “We judge ourselves by our best intentions and most noble deeds, but we will be judged by our worst act.” That worst act doesn’t necessarily have to be intentional, and in fact most “worst acts” aren’t intentional. Liston was a good surgeon, and even if he did have this mishap, his overall mortality rate was actually impressive compared to his peers…especially when you consider the speed factor. According to historian Richard Hollingham, “of the 66 patients Liston operated between 1835 and 1840, only 10 died – a death rate of only around 16%.”

My sister, Caryl Reed is a retired Respiratory Therapist. With everything going on, I’m surprised she was not asked to come back for a time, but the hospital where she worked was a smaller hospital, and maybe that made the difference. Still, she did go back to work part-time at Professional Home Oxygen, where she works about 12 hours a week as a tank fill technician. Caryl’s road to respiratory therapy was not an easy one, and at one point got completely railroaded. Caryl was living in Oak Harbor, Washington at the time, and had walked to the school to pick up her daughter, Andrea Spicer. On the way, it began to rain, and she slipped on the wet grass and badly broke her leg. The break required surgery to place pins and screws in her leg. Needless to say the recovery time caused her to completely lose all the time she had put in. If she wanted to be a respiratory therapist, she would have to start all over. It was a devastating blow, but Caryl would not be deterred. She persevered and began again.

During the time that she was trying get things restarted, her life changed in many ways…not the least of which was a move to Rawlins, Wyoming with her new husband, Mike. The Carbon County Memorial Hospital made the decision to put Caryl on in their Respiratory Therapy Department, contingent upon her finishing and passing the necessary tests to receiver her degree and license. It was a good risk for them, as Caryl did finish and pass the tests. She soon became one of their head Respiratory Therapists, and when she retired, they truly hated to see her go, but shift work and long hours on her feet convinced Caryl that it was time. She and her husband, Mike were preparing to go another direction…their eventual move to Casper, after Mike retires. They have been paving the way for that move by buying a beautiful and large piece of land west of the city, and proceeded to build their home there. Caryl hasn’t lived in Casper, for most of her adult life, and we have missed her. We ar all looking forward to having her and Mike living in Casper, where we can all spend more time together again. Of course, she is already enjoying her retirement, and being able to do the things she wants to do, and previously didn’t have the time to do. She had a wonderful career, and it is something she will always be glad she chose to do. Her perseverance just goes to show that even in the face of adversity, we can be victorious if we push forward, and never give up. Today is Caryl’s birthday. Happy birthday Caryl!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My grand nephew, Lucas Iverson is a sweet boy who is eager to learn new things. Lucas has Down Syndrome, but that has not slowed him down. Lucas is attending summer school, which will help his to stay on track with his studies. He is going to be in second grade next year and is doing very well in school. Because of Lucas learning disabilities, the school is working with innovative new ways of teaching him, and he is doing very well. They are using a picture communication book to teach him. Lucas uses Velcro stickers to ask for what he wants or to answer questions. The idea is that if Lucas needs to go to the restroom, there is a picture of a toilet. If he is thirsty, there is a picture of a glass of water. There are pictures of food, a bed, a car, a park…you get the picture. The best part is that it’s working for Lucas, and he is excelling at it.

One of the things that is helpful to Lucas is to have a schedule that is followed religiously. Everyday schedule changes are difficult for him to deal with, so keeping him on a strict schedule helps him to stay on task. His learning works best in an environment of stability and organization, and since he is doing so well in school, his parents, Cassie and Chris Iverson don’t want anything to get in the way of that. Lucas has been an inspiration to them…and to many of the rest of us in the family too.

Of course, no kid wants to do nothing but study all summer, and Lucas is no exception. So, the family has been doing lots of fishing this summer. And they are planning to go to the fair to celebrate Lucas’ birthday. They have been doing lots of gardening too, and Lucas loves to play outside in his new backyard with his little sister, Zoey, and helping his mom with new photography ideas, like the lens ball. But one of the biggest things that is going on with Lucas is that he is growing like a weed. He weighs 40 pounds and he is 40 inches tall. While that isn’t average for an 8 year old boy, it is pretty good for Lucas, who has struggled with his digestive system, and has been through multiple surgeries. Lucas is a strong, brave boy, who pushes through every time, and always with a smile on his face. The very best news is that he is doing so well in his health right now, that he doesn’t have to go back to the doctors for 6 months. Now that is something to celebrate. Today is Lucas 8th birthday. Happy birthday Lucas!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My niece, Cassie Iverson is a woman of deep convictions. She has researched her positions on things, including vaccinations, education, government, and a number of other things, and she has made up her own mind how she feels about all these things. Whether you agree with her choices or not, I believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, and the right to make their own choices for their family, and especially for their children. Cassie and her husband, Chris have dealt with more medical issues with their son, Lucas, than anyone should ever have to, and they have done well with his upbringing. Having a child with disabilities is hard, but when those problems also include the need for many surgeries, it is really more than any parent should ever have to face. They are very much fighting for their child’s life and they are determined to win that battle. Any time a parent has to fight for the life of their child, I think they should be considered noble fighters.

Cassie have become a fund raising guru, and for anyone who has ever had to do and fund raising, you know how hard a job that is. Nevertheless, trips to Colorado for surgeries are expensive, and so sometimes you have to work hard to come up with the money for them. Cassie does what she has to do. It’s for their son, and that makes the work worth while. Anyone who has met Lucas knows what a sweet boy he is, and also that he is a fighter. Once you meet him, you can’t help but love him, and root for his victory in everything he has to deal with. While things are sometimes tough for Cassie and Chris, there are many good times too.

The take as many opportunities as they can to go camping, fishing, and photographing. Cassie loves to take pictures of nature, as well as having a business in photography where she takes family, baby, and graduation photographs. Those are great, but for me, it is the nature pictures that are amazing. Anyone can snap a picture of a mountain in the distance, but not everyone has an eye for it. If you have an eye for it, the scene really jumps out of the photograph and makes you feel like you are right there. Cassie has that ability, and that is what makes her pictures great…not to mention that she has so many great nature scenes to photograph in Wyoming. She even sells her pictures, which gives other people the chance to see things through her eyes. Today is Cassie’s birthday. Happy birthday Cassie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

When we think of wartime atrocities, most of us think of the Holocaust, and that was indeed a horrible atrocity. Nevertheless, there have been a number of horrible dictators in history, and most of them committed some kind of atrocity. One of the worst atrocities in history, is one that very few people even know about. Most people have heard about the horrible experiments the Nazis performed on humans. The Nazi doctor, Joseph Mengele headed up that torture practice. But the Nazis weren’t alone in conducting cruel experiments on humans. The Imperial Japanese Army’s Unit 731. Some of the details of this unit’s activities are still uncovered. I don’t understand how anyone could have such little regard for human life, as to conduct some of the horrible experiments n them that some of these dictators and their cohorts did.

For 40 years, the horrific activities of “Unit 731” remained one the most closely guarded secrets of World War II. It was not until 1984 that Japan acknowledged what it had done and long denied. The vile experiments on humans conducted by the unit in preparation for germ warfare were atrocious. The Japanese doctors deliberately infected people with plague, anthrax, cholera and other pathogens. It is estimated that as many as 3,000 enemy soldiers and civilians were used as guinea pigs. Some of the more horrific experiments included surgery without anesthesia to see how the human body handled pain, and pressure chambers to see how much pressure a human could take before his eyes popped out.

The compound for Unit 731 was set up in 1938 in Japanese-occupied China with the aim of developing biological weapons. It also operated a secret research and experimental school in Shinjuku, central Tokyo. Its head was Lieutenant Shiro Ishii. Japanese universities and medical schools also supported the unit, by supplying doctors and research staff. I can’t imagine being assigned to such a facility. The picture now emerging about Unit 731’s activities is horrifying. According to reports, which were never officially admitted by the Japanese authorities, the unit used thousands of Chinese and other Asian civilians and wartime prisoners as human guinea pigs to breed and develop killer diseases. Many of the prisoners, who were murdered in the name of research, were used in hideous vivisection and other medical experiments, including barbaric trials to determine the effect of frostbite on the human body. To ease the conscience of those involved, if that is even possible, the prisoners were referred to not as people or patients, but as “Maruta”, which means wooden logs. I suppose they thought it would help, but I doubt if it did.

Before Japan’s surrender, the site of the experiments was completely destroyed, so that no evidence is left. I don’t suppose we would have known anything had it not been for the pictures that have surfaced, and people who have told the story later. After the site was destroyed, the remaining 400 prisoners were shot and the employees of the unit had to swear secrecy, or risk their own death. The mice kept in the laboratory were then released, which most likely cost the lives of as many as 30,000 people, because the mice were infected with the Bubonic Plague, and they spread the disease. Few of those involved with Unit 731 have admitted their guilt. Some were caught in China at the end of the war, were arrested and detained, but only a handful of them were prosecuted for war crimes. In Japan, not one was brought to justice. In a secret deal, the post-war American administration gave them immunity for prosecution in return for details of their experiments. Some of the worst criminals, including Hisato Yoshimura, who was in charge of the frostbite experiments, went on to occupy key medical and other posts in public and private sectors…their guilty feelings, if they had any, existed only in their own minds.

My grand-niece, Raelynn Masterson is growing up so fast that I find myself feeling stunned, so I can only imagine how her parents feel. She will be starting high school this year, and she is hoping to get into drivers education and computer art. The drivers education class makes sense, because what 15 year old doesn’t want to learn to drive, but the computer art class surprised me a little, because I didn’t realize that she was the artsy type, although I should have, because when I think about it, her nature is to be more quiet…a gentle soul. She is beginning to really think about higher education and considering options beyond art. Her mom thinks she would make an amazing vet. She does so well with any animal she comes into contact with. Her mom thinks it is her quiet demeanor that makes the animals love her. I know that her grandma, Cheryl Masterson’s dog and cat loves Raelynn, so being a vet could be a really good option.

Raelynn is hoping to be able to find a job soon, because what girl doesn’t need spending money, but Raelynn really isn’t a fussy, prissy type, but she is a beautiful girl. Raelynn has always been a fairly quiet, happy girl, with a quirky side. She loves everyone in her life and always has a big smile and a hug for all of them.

A year ago, Raelynn has surgery to correct scoliosis. It is amazing that it has been a year already. To this day it is hard for her parents to let her get back to her normal activities. After a major surgery, it can be nerve wracking to let go. Her mom told me that she has issues letting her do things that may jar her back. They went to Thermopolis this year and she wanted to go down the sides and jump off the high dive. Mom was completely against it, so Dad called her surgeon and he said that she would be fine. Mom lost on that one, and she did go down the high dive. Raelynn was a little unsure of it, and it took her going up and coming down once but she jumped off and she was fine. Her parents told me that they were so proud of her. She was facing a legitimately fear of heights, but she did it. When the fair came, they found that it was a little easier to let her ride the things she wanted to ride, and be a kid. She faces her fears and goes forward. It is a show of bravery and courage. Her strength of character is well in tact and her faith in God unbelievable. Today is Raelynn’s 15th birthday. Happy birthday Raelynn!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

As with all children, it’s hard to believe that my grand-nephew, Lucas Iverson is 7 years old today. With Lucas, it might be a little harder to believe than most kids, in fact. Lucas was born with Down Syndrome, but that has been the least of his problems. Lucas has been plagued with a number of health problems that have required multiple surgeries. In fact, according to his mom, Cassie Iverson, Lucas has had more surgeries than he has had years. I’m sure there are those who have had more surgeries, but no matter how you look at it, that is a lot of surgeries for a little guy. Since Lucas’ last birthday, he has had to make trips to Children’s Hospital in Aurora, Colorado, every two weeks, with intestinal and immune system issues, typical of Down Syndrome. Now that he has had multiple surgeries, he is better, and they can breathe a little easier where his health is concerned.

Lucas was in Kindergarten this last year, and in their Kindergarten Circus, Lucas got to be a wild cat. I’m not sure how wild is, but I prefer to think of him as a lion, because he is brave and strong…and a fighter. To me that is exactly what Lucas is…a fighter…strong, brave, and fierce. Lucas likes school, with his special needs, he has his own personal teacher. That is really a good thing, and maybe a little unusual in a small town like Powell, Wyoming. Lucas’ parents have considered moving to Colorado or Tennessee, because of so many good opportunities and closer healthcare for Lucas, but the thought of them moving has been a very difficult one for their families, so for now, they will stay in Powell. Of course, the hope is that Lucas will not need any more surgeries in the future. He has really been through enough, if you ask me.

Down Syndrome children often have poor muscle tone, and they have to work very hard to learn to do the things we all take for granted. Right now, in his physical therapy,Lucas is working on jumping. He also loves rolling on the big ball as he phases off with his feet. I think Lucas has one other ace in the hole…his little sister, Zoey, who dearly loves her big brother, and has been instrumental in many of his abilities. She is patient and encouraging, and doesn’t leave him behind, just because he is slower. Zoey is Lucas’ best friend. They love to go camping with their parents, Chris and Cassie. They gt out is the outdoors where they can get some brain boosting and immune system boosting dirt in their hands. Today is Lucas’ 7th birthday. Happy birthday Lucas!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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.

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!!

Chantel and IzabellaimageDad and MomOn the last day of the year, many people are busily planning the festivities for the evening. Others are contemplating the coming year and how they might make it better than the last. These are things that I am doing too, but I am also looking back on the year that is quickly coming to a close. Every year has it’s good things and it’s bad things. This year is no different. As the year began, I was recovering from a broken shoulder, while my niece, Chantel Balcerzak was getting used to her new role as grandma to little Izabella Siara Harman. February brought a promotion for my brother-in-law, Chris Hadlock to Lieutenant with the Casper Police Department, and then the sad 1st anniversary of our mother’s passing. I couldn’t believe she had been gone a year already. March brought the 41st anniversary of my marriage to Bob Schulenberg, and the love continues to grow. It also brought the purchase of a home in northwestern Washington for our daughter, Amy Royce and her husband, Travis.

April brought my 60th birthday, although I felt no upset by that. I have always felt that the key is to enjoy the age you are at, and I will continue to do so. May 5th brought the sad reminder that my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg has been in Heaven for 3 years now. May also brought the graduation of my grandson, Chris Corrie, Amy and meimg_8305Dad SchulenbergPetersen from the Culinary School at Sheridan College. It’s hard for me to believe that his college years are so quickly over. My daughter, Amy made the trip to Wyoming to attend the graduation, and it was so good to see her again…even if it was for such a short time. June brings the birthdays of my daughters, and these days it’s a little bit bittersweet, because Amy is so far away. My oldest daughter, Corrie Petersen and her husband, Kevin went camping for her birthday, so we joined them on Casper Mountain for a birthday evening. We all had a lovely time. I just wish Amy’s family could have been there too.

July brought with it one of the biggest changes of my life, when my husband, Bob Schulenberg retired from the City of Casper. It was a day of rejoicing, because he had been ready to retire for some time now. July also brought with it, another loss…of sorts, when my granddaughter, Shai Royce moved to Washington to be near her family. It was hard on me, but I knew it was best for her, because she had been so lonely for her parents and her brother, Caalab. While we continue to miss her and the rest of her family, we are happy, because they are happy. July also brought wedding bells for my nephew, Garrett Stevens as he married his best friend, img_9127IMG_4538img_5927Kayla Smiley. August brought a beautiful new addition to our family when my niece Jessi Sawdon and her husband, Jason welcomed daughter Adelaide Ione to our family. Addi was named after Jessi’s great grandmother and Jessi’s grandmother, my mom, Collene Ione Spencer. In September, my sister-in-law, Brenda Schulenberg, had skin removal surgery after losing 350 pounds. She had a bleeding issue, but she is doing well now, and we are very proud of her. September also brought with it the sadness of loss, as we said goodbye to Bob’s aunt, Linda Cole. Hers was a shock, because her passing was so unexpected.

October found my grandson, Josh Petersen actively pursuing his dream of becoming a firefighter as he took Boces classes to get a head start on the Fire Science degree he needs. It also found us celebrating with my brother-in-law, Chris Hadlock, as he became the Peace Officer of the year. November brought an unusual Thanksgiving as Bob and I traveled to Ferndale, Washington to spend the holiday with Amy’s family, in a week that went by way too fast. Then, as we were on our way home, we found out about the passing of my cousin, Shirley Cameron’s husband, Shorty’s passing…another shocking passing that was very unexpected. December img_5862michelleblue-jean-brendabrought the sad reminder that my dad, Allen Spencer had been in Heaven now for 9 long years. That seems impossible to me. December also brought college graduation for my niece, Michelle Stevens, who will now start her teaching career. This was most certainly a year of ups and downs, but with the coming new year, comes the hope for a great future.

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