Saturday, September 30, 2006


"Learn to get in touch with silence within yourself, And know that everything in this life has purpose. There are no mistakes, No coincidences, All events are blessings given to us to learn from."

Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

Thursday, September 28, 2006


My blog has been critiqued by Billy Mac! This is what he said:
It's progress not perfection... Thanks Billy!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Fat Frayed and Frazzled

Today I am so tired and discombobulated. I am tired of packing boxes, tired of working on lesson plans and tired of wrapping myself in knots over things that are just out of my control right now.

I don't know why I do that; I don't WANT to do that. It just happens. Anything that could go wrong did go wrong today. I froze up my portable oxygen tank and had to take a shower gasping for breath. I stumbled over boxes all day, hurting my toe and my shins multiple times. My teaching partner called in the morning to tell me she wouldn't be with me this evening at class but someone else would. I worked on the wrong lesson plan for 5 hours today because she forgot to tell me that that someone else was teaching something else tonight.

The list just goes on and on. But now I am going to take a very DEEP breath in through my nose and very softly and slowly breathe it out through my pursed lips....and again...and once more for good measure. Now that works pretty well. I wish it was so easy to lose weight! I'd love to breath in all the food I crave and breathe out the trans fat. I can tell I'll need some Enya to fall asleep tonight.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

New Path

For a long time after I had to resign from full time work as an RN due to COPD, I thought I would just wither and die. I always wanted to be a nurse and it sort of defined me as a person and what I felt about life. Give back. I could have been a poster for nursing recruitment. I loved it. I feel it was a gift to be in someone's life in their lowest moments. I could feel good about myself if I could make a difference in someone's life. As hokey as it sounds, I enjoyed helping people.

I was blessed with an opportunity to continue to nurse in a different environment. I now am the program director and teach certified nursing assistants. I think I've mentioned before that I have been the RN signature of a CNA program for about 3 years. I never took money for that but had oversight of the program taught by a non profit foundation at our local community college.

Last October I resigned my job as Director of Nursing and like I said, I felt devastated that I couldn't manage the stress of the position as my symptoms of COPD became worse. This year, I was offered the opportunity to be more involved in the class and to help teach it. Oh my goodness, I had never thought of teaching, ever! But as I wrapped my head around it and the posssiblilities, I came to love the idea. The foundation and I had the same philosophy: to bring qualified care givers into the already stretched health care field.

A new class started on Monday. I looked at the class and was impressed by the faces of people who wanted to make a change in people's lives. What a unique opportunity to share my ideas and instill in them a pride in their work and a sense of self esteem because they are making a difference.

I had reached a point in my own career where I felt pretty jaded and cynical and helpless to effect changes. It took months and months away from work to recover my love of nursing and to be positive again. I remember now why I went into nursing and my love of helping and how by making small changes, each person can make healthcare better for everyone. We each have a roll to play in the grand scheme of things and I feel that now I am here to show others my enthusiasm and love of caring for others. It's still cool and it's still relevent and it's ok to love helping others. I hope that these students go out and challenge the status quo. I hope that they remind others who are cynical about why they went into a helping profession. I hope they make a difference.

I still have so much to give and who could ask for anything more?

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Plan?

I'm surrounded by boxes because I'm moving in 2 weeks and surrounded by papers and books because I have a new CNA class that started tonight and I'm feeling just a bit overwhelmed right now. I can only go so fast and that's really pretty slow these days and nothing seems to be coming together like the PLAN.

Okay, I never had a PLAN, but I wish I did. I guess I just thought that everything would fall into place and I'd find the energy somewhere. Alas, that energy is hiding somewhere under a box, I think. An empty box. This is hard stuff. Just going through things to decide if I want them to move with me is so time consuming and thought provoking. I have so many memories here that it's hard to just cast off some just because I won't have room for them in the place I am going.

I'm still so angry that this has been forced upon me by a landlord who wants to live here for 3 or 4 nights a week. He actually had the nerve to call me last week to say that I might be able to stay if he can work something out but it wasn't certain...arrrrgh. I have already totally disrupted my life and plans to comply with his plans and I wouldn't stay now if I could stay rent-free! I would love to slap, slap, slap him up side the head.

But, on the other hand, I need a smaller place because I can't take care of a large place as well any more. I have to make my energy last all day and portion it out a little at a time. That has been very frustrating for me. I've always been so active and full steam ahead on everything in my life. To slow it down has been a challenge. To ask for help *gasp* has been almost impossible. But I'm learning. And it has even been a pleasure to stop and smell the roses for a while. That was a lesson learned way too late. I would strongly suggest that everyone take me-time everyday and remind yourself that you, too, are worthy of comfort and support. Take care of your bodies as well as your spirit.

Yeah, that's my plan...

Saturday, September 16, 2006


How on earth do you grieve for an online friend who has died? My friend Melisa passed away at 1:25 am with her family at her bedside. I cannot believe she won't be in my life anymore. I can't say goodbye to her. I don't know where to put my anger and grief right now. I know that I should know what to do but I can't think.

Melisa was just 42 and had COPD which was very severe. As bad as her illness was, she continued to volunteer for her son's boy scout troup, her religious group and she was so cheerful and encouraging to everyone. With her oxygen she could still do laundry and vacuuming and shopping. Melisa still did her gardening and loved to watch the hummingbirds that came to her bird feeders. What an inspiration she was as she waited for the medical team to tell her she was "bad enough" for a lung transplant. How ironic that she died waiting to be bad enough.

I hate this disease. I hate what it does to people. I hate that because we smoked and "did this to ourselves" it is so hard to get research money to come up with a cure. I hate being called a "burden on society". I hate that it took a good friend from me and left me with this helpless feeling.

Melisa was a good friend to me and I'll miss talking with her on Yahoo and on our cells and I will definitely miss her emails first thing in the morning. Already our Breathing Better site feels hollow without her. Like a school emptied out in summer.

I know you can breathe well now, Melisa, Godspeed.

Friday, September 15, 2006

My Friend

I didn't know you could get so attached to someone you met online. I was surprised to find out how much I cared. I should have known because I even care about characters in books. But I was still surprised.

I met Melisa on a COPD board. She was so friendly and upbeat and we hit it off right away. We kept saying that we could have been sisters because we like so many of the same things and we both have this cynical, kind of dry sense of humor.

I had resigned from full time work and was spending a lot of time at home a year ago. Melisa and I would meet up on Yahoo chat and spend time sharing stories and talking about our lives. Melisa is 42 and her FEV1 is about 12%. She has a husband and an 11 year old son. I thought life was unfair to me at 55, but at 42, well that's just cruel.

We found out that we had the same cell phone plan so we started calling each other. How cool, I'm in MA and she's in TX and we can talk free. (I'm just getting up to speed with technology.)

Last night her husband called me to say that she became very ill during the night and is in the hospital. He cried as he said they just weren't sure she would make it this time.

I have been feeling so sad and lonely since that call. I can't get anything done. The bad part of an online friendship is that you're not family, and you are not near, and there is nothing you can do to even comfort the family. I feel very fortunate that he even called me to tell me. I don't know when I'll get another update on her.

My daughter and I were talking today and I was telling her about Melisa. I guess I never mentioned Melisa to her before. I don't know why I didn't. She was quick to ask if I was okay. Apparently she has had an online friend for about 5 years. They have never met and she told me that she is closer to her online friend than some of the friends she sees every day, so she understood what I was feeling.

I have a new perspective on friendship now and it includes loving online friends even if it is hard sometimes to deal with the realities of not being closer, not meeting face to face and not being able to be there if they really need you.

I am praying for life for Melisa so that she can have more time with her young family. Amen.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

All Hail Helios

I have been the RN signature of a CNA program for several years and didn't really have much to do with it except to review the curriculum and make sure it was in compliance with state regulations. I didn't even take the pay they offered. I was busy with my full time job of Director of Nursing in a long term care facility.

However, COPD was kicking my butt as well as the stress of my work. I was getting more and more short of breath and it was harder to stay well. My pulmonologist wanted me on oxygen long before I agreed to it. In my mind, having to use oxygen was akin to saying that I wasn't a good nurse. That I was less of a person because of a disability and I would become one of the "lungers" I had taken care of so many times. I cried and cried when I finally realized that I would need the O2 to make my life better. I conceeded and began using it a year ago.

At the same time, I resigned as Director of Nursing and felt devastated. I had been making a very comfortable salary and had great health benefits, loved my job and the people I worked with. But I couldn't keep up with the demands of the job and take care of myself at the same time, so I left. Working and not taking care of myself was the reason I was in this predicament. I was so depressed as I thought I would never be a nurse again and there was nothing else that I wanted to do. How would I support myself? Would I be on disability? Would I still be able to keep my home? How would I pay my bills?

What I've come to learn is that the oxygen has given me a new life. One that I couldn't have had without it. Yes I'm on disability, my FEV1 was 29% when I quit work. But now I can breathe easier and that allows me to move better and more often.

I went to pulmonary rehab, which showed me that there were still things I could do, maybe just a little slower. I used my oxygen and cranked it up as I worked the treadmill, the upper body machine and the nu-step. I did exercises at home with weights. I learned how to breathe in through my nose and out longer through my lips. I learned how to really breathe with my diaphram. I learned that while I would never regain lung function lost, I could make my muscles use oxygen more efficiently through exercise and save more oxygen for my vital organs.

As I became more used to wearing the O2, it didn't bother me so much to be seen with it on. I love teaching people about it. In a grocery store, a child asked his mom in front of me why I had that hose. She said "Why don't you ask her?" It was my pleasure to respond that I needed more air and the tank supplied it. I can go anywhere with it because it's so portable. I can wear it as a back pack, on the waist or over my shoulder. I have a short canula for trips out, and a long canula at home so I don't yank the tank onto the floor from the counter when I'm working in the kitchen. I am never hooked up to the large filling canister or a concentrator unit. I am free as a bird!

So fast forward to the CNA program ~ I am alive and well and able to work effectively as a nurse and be an advocate of pulmonary rehab and oxygen therapy! Who'd have thought that a "lunger" could educate the medical community and feel so good about it! I am not only responsible for the content of the program, I also teach several modules. I never thought that I'd like teaching, but I do. I have also been offered a position with an MD to do home visits to his patients, and I may also do this. All of my doubts about working with oxygen are fading in the distance.

Life is good again and all hail helios! I have a life again and I can still be a nurse!!

Monday, September 11, 2006

God Bless America

I let the feelings just wash over me today. I don't know why this anniversary is any different from the others, but I couldn't stop thinking about it today.

All I want to say is that I still think of all of the victims, the ones who died, the ones who survived and all of us who were touched. The world cannot possibly mean the same to us but I still believe that democracy rules and I am grateful for my life in America, where dreams can come true and our way of life is enduring. I could not live anywhere else in the world. I am proud to be an American.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Fickle fingers

I think I'm getting arthritis in my fingers or maybe it's so much work on the computer. I've been working on some teaching modules for the CNA classes that I teach and I'm also working on a teaching tool for oxygen users as well as health care workers.

My fingers are cramped and boy do they hurt. Of course that's not going to stop me from typing! I just read about a nurse who came home from work and found an intruder in her house and strangled him to death with her bare hands! HER fingers work just fine!

Monday, September 04, 2006


Today while taking it easy ~ no holiday shift for me ~ I have spent time thinking about where I am and how I got here. Who I am and what I want to be. I'd like to spend some time reflecting on how I became a nurse, first an LPN and then an RN and all that has led to where I am now. I know that it will take way more than one post so I hope you will perservere while I offer my spin on life and nursing.

I always wanted to be a nurse. There was something about it that spoke to my need to nurture and help people. I continued to want to be a nurse even while women burned their bra's and said "you don't have to be JUST a nurse or JUST a schoolteacher." Wow is THAT ever dating me! I never ever felt like JUST a nurse.

I remember always wanting to be like Mother Teresa, wanting to do something so big that it would save the world. It took years and years to be okay with just making a difference each day in someone's life. I'm good at that. I love nursing. That is what I do.

I was devastated when I thought last year that I would never do that again. I let stress and an inability to see my own needs get in my way...I had COPD and could just not go on in my position as a director of nursing in a LTC facility, no matter how much I loved it.

I went to nursing school straight out of high school. I went to an LPN program that ran 15 months straight, which is not being done today. I was totally unprepared. The hospital school of nursing that I went to began as a TB sanitarium. They still had a ward for patients with TB who had no place to go.

TB had been conquered and the hospital had moved on to cancer. Radical surgery and radical cases. My first patient was an elderly man and he was both OLD and CRANKY. When I found out that I had to wash his privates, I said this is not for me and quit. I had been thinking about it for a while because I had heard whispers that there was another man there with no arms and no legs and I finally SAW him. Oh no, not for me at all! That ended my parents hope for the first generation to advance in school; I just left.

The next couple of years were spent working as a receptionist, a donut maker and short order cook. Nothing made me feel like it could be my life work. I went back to the nursing school and made it this time. I found that I loved the challenge of making people feel and smell better. I say smell because cancer has a particular smell. In my early days of nursing we used to place oil of wintergreen in the rooms. That only made it worse. I can still "picture" the smell in my mind!

For the better part of 10 years I lived in a dormatory and worked in the "old san". It was a big "campus" with lots of outbuildings. We even had a seamstress who made us turn- of- the- century nursing uniforms for a celebration of Nurses Day.

The dorm life always invokes a smile when I think of it. My friends and I who worked the night shift would take off in the morning after work to go to the beach for the day; my evening shift friends and I would go to an all-night diner after they got out of work at 11pm. The laughs, the meals, the boys, the dates, the philosophical conversations! It was a memorable time for me.

I learned so many skills there. We autoclaved everything and I learned how to do treatments using a package of sterile products wrapped in a sterile (cloth) field. The instruments were not disposable and were returned each time to Central Supply for sterilizing. I learned how to talk with patients, be at ease with them, and make them at ease with me. The basics of what I would use in my future career were learned as an LPN.

In the middle of my years at the "sanitarium" as it was called in the community, I took 2 years and went to Phoenix to work and live. I worked at Good Samaritan Hospital and my future of working with patients who were dying was sealed. I will share that in my next post.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Real World

I love Sundays ~ a lazy coffee in the morning and playing with the cat. It's raining today and that's even better. I just love to stay cozy inside and listen to it rain. Ok, that's in my PERFECT world. My REAL world is that I have to go out today to get boxes so I can start packing to move. (I was given a 30-day notice by my landlord to vacate so that he can move in here). Real life can be such a drag!

But on the bright side, I am working on some training modules for nurses, CNAs and oxygen providers. Having been on the receiving end of panic breathing, I wish I knew way back when, what I know now about oxygen and breathing techniques and the equipment. My sister died of lung disease when she was just 50. I could have helped her so much more had I known pursed lip breathing and diaphramatic breathing and tips on how to focus her and talk to her to bring her breathing under control. In the real world, we just don't get enough information and learn much of it on the job.

I am going to make some more coffee and enjoy my perfect world for a while.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

From out of the darkness

I have been a member for a couple of months but could never access my account. I have a friend who has started a blog so I thought I'd try this again. I have some things to say, a few things to work out and a some things to share.

I hope to connect with people who are either nurses or COPDers. For me, I cannot separate the two. I am a nurse with 30 years experience who doesn't want to give up my life's work. I may be on oxygen, but I am not without passion for what I do.

I had been in a terrible depression for many months and have come out on the "other side" and I am VERY grateful to be here! With the support of family and friends, and my online family of COPD supporters, I realize that my life can move forward and be the meaningful and rewarding life that I love.