Then God said, “Let there be light”

Then God said, “Let there be light”

I wrote most of the following entry on June 27, 2016 on our way home from a progress exam with Sasha’s internist. Decided I would leave it as  is. I posted part of it on Sasha’s FB page but omitted personal details…

     ~

We are almost home (Sasha’s internist is a 5 hr RT). The AC in our Honda Ridgeline simply stopped working, we’re hitting construction everywhere, and I’m starving. However none of it’s annoying me for I’m still ecstatic because Sasha’s pupils are beginning to react to light (PRL). Being realistic, today’s discovery is a baby step but nonetheless it’s progress.Sasha woke up blind on April 7. Since she was in the process of preparing for stem cell therapy, I initially had the veterinary neurosurgeon perform diagnostics to uncover the cause.  I did the gamut; MRI imaging of her head to rule out an organic disturbance, a spinal tap to rule out neurological infection, a plethora of lab tests especially the ones that would indicate a tick borne illness however everything was normal. My next step was having Sasha evaluated  by a veterinarian ophthalmologist which included more tests and an ERG ( electroretinogram) which is a test to evaluate retinal function. Think of it as an EKG monitor that we see hooked to a hospitalized patient on a medical drama. When the patient’s heart stops, the EKG makes a noise and the camera zooms in on the flat line shown on the monitor. When an ERG  performed on a dog shows a “flat line” it indicates total destruction of the visual cell layer (the rods and cones) of the retina with subsequent blindness.  The diagnosis is Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration (SARDS), you are told there is no treatment and given handouts on “Dealing with a Blind Dog”. Nearly 5k in diagnostics only to be told to help Sasha adapt to blindness as she’ll never see again. “You can’t help her”.

Sasha Quick ERG April 22, 2016
Sasha’s ERG ~ April 22, 2016 (not exactly flat lined)

 

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One of the many tests by the opthalmologist
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More tests

Somehow it didn’t “feel right” to me and since my mantra is “Can’t is a fellow that never tried” I didn’t accept it. Not because I didn’t want the burden of a blind dog but rather, I wouldn’t have accepted that diagnosis for a human family member so why would I for Sasha? If there was a chance to regain either full or partial vision I wanted her to have it. She’s had so many atypical medical issues yet always landed on her feet. After the FCE in 2011, I accepted that she wouldn’t reach the last Schutzhund level or scale a 6′ fence – who cares? But I wanted to be able to watch her face as her eyes followed a tossed snowball or a chirping band of tree hopping squirrels. And if there were no options, I would have accepted that too; but I owed it to her to explore.

Sasha aka Chomper
Sasha ~ In Schutzhund class one month before the FCE

As a young child I was not allowed to touch, play, talk to, or interact with the family dog on ANY level. Her name was Beauty; jet black fur with a slight wave to it and long lovely ears. Looking back I think she was some type of spaniel. To be honest I don’t know where she came from as she simply appeared inside our house one day when I returned from kindergarten (just as she mysteriously appeared, a few years later she was gone). I also don’t know where she was most evenings and on weekends as I would only catch fleeting glimpses of her. I asked my father one night (when he wasn’t drinking) why I couldn’t play with Beauty. He said “Mommy told me she caught you sticking pins in Beauty’s ears”. I can still feel the hurt and shame that enveloped me that night because I knew I had never, ever done anything to hurt Beauty but from living with a mother that lied, I inherently knew to protest or deny her accusations was futile. I can also remember the rare times I would see Beauty in the living room while my parents watched the evening news. My father would be stroking her and my mother alternating between giving me her famous smug smirk or looking at me in horror and making motions with her arms as if to protect Beauty from the me ~ the resident demon. She would do it when my father was engrossed in the current new story so that he wouldn’t see her. I always felt like she was a like a taunting schoolyard bully instead of a mother. Gotta tell you, it was a real joy being 5 years old in that house! So as usual I immersed myself in books, many which were about dogs. Our home had an abundance of older books, many of which I still have today. We seemed to have many by Albert Payson Terhune, a native of NJ. He wrote about his beloved collies and while I couldn’t read many of the words in his books,  I still enjoyed them.

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Albert Peyson Terhune & his collies of Sunnybank

Until I became a mother the only happiness and unconditional love I’d ever had was from the dogs I was blessed to have in my life. Their wagging tails and sloppy kisses kept me going when I wanted to literally give up. They lay by my side as I cried uncontrollably. They entertained me with their hilarious antics on lonely nights and weekends. An introvert my nature, I sat on the floor with them and enjoyed a Saturday night party of treats and tracking. They were usually the only ones who were openly happy to see me. Somehow because of them I felt validated as a person. All the hateful venom hurled my way as a child didn’t matter because in the eyes of my dogs, I saw love and acceptance and that was enough to sustain me. As we do with our loved ones, I put their veterinary needs before my own the same way I later put my children’s needs before my own. That’s just what we do in life. I won’t deceive or gild it though; keeping up with Sasha’s medical costs has been one of the biggest financial challenges of my life, especially since I wasn’t working and involved in a legal matter. It pained me deeply that I had to turn to asking people to lend me money but it all goes back to what mattered more; my pride or Sasha’s well-being. Definitely a no-brainer!

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Sasha May 2016

So yes, today I am excited, blessed, thrilled and confident. Tomorrow something may crop up in her care that changes that but I know that whatever obstacles she encounters will be stepping-stones. I believe Sasha knows how very loved she is. I also think she senses that her internist, Dr. Sarah Noble, truly cares about her. You can see Sasha perk up and radiate contentment whenever Dr. Noble enters the room. Her other hero is Dr. Plechner who ironically is located on the West Coast while we are on the East. Opposite ends of the country yet he has been there every step of Sasha’s SARDS journey. Dr. Noble collaborated with him for Sasha’s treatment by using a protocol that he researched and developed. Many in his profession believe he is too controversial but I say this; it was the controversial pioneers that gave us many of the gold medical standards (both human and animal) in today’s world. Bottom line, Dr. Plechner’s theories made sense. They fit together like pieces of a puzzle. As a healthcare professional I researched SARDS, his protocol for treating it, spoke with owners of dogs whose vision returned after using his treatment plan. At the end of the day I knew it was an opportunity I wanted to give Sasha but accepted that, like anything in life, no guarantees. Both Drs. Noble and Plechner care about their patients, viewing them as a sentient beings as opposed to Patient #936. With heroes like that in her corner along with the beautiful thoughts and prayers from all of her followers on Sasha’s Journey , Sasha has a sure-fire recipe for success. Most of all, she is loved and that will never change ~

 

 

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Sasha Smiles

My Sweet Sasha & Why Internet Trolls *^(%*# Me

My Sweet Sasha & Why Internet Trolls *^(%*# Me

I am somewhat disheartened today which is a step up from last night when I was in full attack mode. I am not a huge participant on social media. Correction ~ on Facebook  (I use Twitter). I do however have a personal FB page which enables me to stay in touch with friends and former colleagues in NJ. When my dog Callie was diagnosed with canine lymphoma last October I created a FB page for her. I’m a researcher by nature and wanted to share articles, nutritional recommendations for dogs undergoing chemo and so forth. Sadly Callie passed a month later so her page is more of a tribute. When my German Shepherd developed some health issues in the beginning of 2016, I created a FB page for her called Sasha’s Journey. Little did I know the path her journey would take; stem cell therapy. I frequently update her page with procedural videos, photos, and general musings about the medical issues she has and which treatment modalities work or don’t work. That’s about the extent of my FB activity and most of the time I do it using my iPhone. It was less than a year ago that I learned about the many features of FB because I happened to be on my laptop where the format is different from mobile. For example I discovered we have an “other” mailbox which is where messages sent by users we’re not associated with wind up. *Hold that the thought* Interesting but I quickly forgot about it. Yesterday however I was on my laptop researching boots for my GSD. Sasha’s primary issue is knuckling of her rear left foot which is a residual effect of a neurological event she suffered in 2011. In essence knuckling means a dog will turn their paw under when walking (the frequency depends on the dog’s medical issue) and this can lead to abrasions on top of their foot as well as loss of balance. Wearing a single boot on the affected paw can help their mobility and reduce injury. I have a small collection of boots but hadn’t found the right one for her until recently. Yesterday I was online printing the sizing chart and looking at the company web-sight. Regressing a moment ~ I admit I don’t have my laptop tweaked because I’m not on it much. It’s only a few months old but I spend so much time driving for veterinary appointments that it’s easier to use my iPhone. While looking at the boots I kept seeing annoying little notification boxes and finally checked to see what they were. There were messages in my “other” FB mailbox; messages about Sasha. As I read my mouth literally fell open because although there were only four, they were beyond cruel. One troll said that I was forcing a “half dead dog” to stay alive by playing Dr. Frankenstein. One suggested I shoot her. The next just rambled on about stem cell therapy being against God’s will. The last wrote that I was torturing Sasha and she needs to be “put down”. That begs a question I’ve always pondered ~ what exactly does “put down” mean? I’ve never liked associating that term with the death of a beloved companion animal. I put down my knitting, put down a fork. How do I put down a dog? I chose not to answer any of the misanthropic message senders but because it bothered me SO MUCH  I made a rather lengthy post on Sasha’s Journey which I’d like to share on my blog for anyone who might be interested. You know, I’ve had a rather difficult life in that I overcame (for the most part) horrific childhood abuse and incarceration before age 10. I kept moving forward and with the birth of my first child felt I finally had a family, I was complete. The missing component to happiness that had eluded me for so long was finally in place. Animals also played an extremely significant role in my life as their unconditional love and acceptance allowed me to feel grounded. I made a career switch to nursing and worked in a large inner city teaching hospital where I saw everything and anything. I am most definitely somewhat cynical and sarcasm is my middle name. Even with my feisty Jersey personality I never intentionally try to be cruel or unkind to another person. I’ve been the recipient of vicious comments and it hurts so why would I do the same to another? Yet despite the passing years, life experiences and just plain crap that one encounters, I still cling to the belief that people are inherently good and when idiots like those message senders shatter my perceptions, I still manage to get myself into a tizzy and last night’s tizzy was of mammoth proportions!  Now onto that post…

 

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Summer Sasha August 2015

 

I usually use FB while on my phone so when I access it from my laptop I see the many features I often miss when on a smart phone. Today while researching boots on the Mac I saw something I wish I hadn’t but because of my personality, can’t let it go and therefore shall address it. I am very sad at the moment regarding a few messages I happened upon in the “other” FB mailbox; messages about my GSD, Sasha Clarice (Angel Von den Westlichen Bergen), for whom this page was created to chronicle her medical needs and subsequent treatments. From the same litter as her “sister” Inga Patrice (Anika Von den Westlichen Bergen) whom I purchased from the breeder at 8 weeks, Sasha initially went to another family in Maine. A very affluent and connected local family. Sadly, her first few months were anything but pampered; she was barely tolerated. They wanted a GSD who was extremely quiet and docile ~ one who acted like their recently deceased 14 yr old GSD. Delusional thinking. When Sasha (she had a different name back then) tore up a tissue she was put inside a closet. There were no toys or treats in their home. They never took her picture, not even once. For some strange reason they would call me weekly to compare Sasha and Inga. Perhaps because there were only (3) females in the litter they assumed all female pups acted alike? They took her to numerous vets because she frequently licked her genitalia. I mean, multiple vets in different towns! One day I overheard a conversation while in a local store that upset me greatly. That evening I called Sasha’s owners and the wife answered. I didn’t want to say what I’d overheard so decided to lead the owner into the direction I needed. My fear was substantiated. Sasha had been hit by a slow-moving car in front of their home and thrown several feet into the air before landing in the street. My first question was “What did the vet say”? Can you imagine my shock when the woman said they didn’t take her? This from someone who was obsessed about a puppy’s occasional licking? Trying to keep calm I asked how Sasha was and I will NEVER forget the sinister laugh on the other end of the phone. She said (and I quote): “Well she’s been rather mellow and quiet the past few days. Too bad she can’t get hit more often”. Then she laughed again. I made up my mind then and there to get Sash away from these freaks. In the past they had offered her to me because she committed some dastardly deed like shredding a piece of mail but when I arrived to get her they’d changed their minds. So I searched the internet, found the type of contract I needed and filled it out. The next time they called I was ready. I arrived with contract in hand in addition to my daughter who is a notary. I had them date and sign before I even sat down. The contract clearly specified that it was irrevocable. I changed her name to Sasha because it rhymed with her original name (so as not to confuse her), registered her with the AKC since they never bothered, plus had her microchipped.
I still remember the look on her face when she moved to her new home. She was clueless about toys such as ropes and antlers. I remember watching her face while she watched Inga and Callie as they went to the toy basket, water bowl, or the outside play equipment and then followed suit. I cried because I was happy she was in her forever home yet sad that her first year had been so terrible. She and Inga had alpha issues and it took a lot of time and work. The one constant has been Sasha’s resilience and happy disposition. She trained hard in Schutzhund and could scale a 6′ fence in a flash. She took to water like a fish and snow like a polar bear. When she became sidelined by the FCE (Fibrocartilaginous Embolism) also called a spinal stroke in 2011, she worked hard to recover and recover she did; 85% use of the affected leg. In 2013 she had sudden onset of PFD  (Perianal Fistula Disease) but once again, persevered and between her support team at home and an incredible internist she’s been in remission for over (3) years. Remissions of that length are almost unheard of. PFD is such a nasty disease that many GSDs have to have their tails amputated. Yet here’s Sasha, a testament to overcoming and defying the odds.
So for the few people who, after reading Sasha’s Journey, have sent me private messages suggesting I am torturing her, that she is too old, too weak, too blind, too ___________ (insert adjective) and should be “put down” I say this. Ain’t happening! Sasha is loved and cared for, her needs are more than met, and most of all, she is happy and content. If reading her page disturbs you then I suggest you find another more aesthetically pleasing page to follow. FB has a plethora of pages that have pretty dog pictures accompanied by happy dog quotes. Sasha’s Journey is dedicated to a real dog, with tangible health issues – issues that affect thousands of companion dogs on any given day. Her page documents not only her struggles and setbacks but progress made due to her incredible strength, determination and phenomenal veterinarians. Most of all ~ Sasha’s Journey represents love. It’s enabled me to share her story with other people so that they can see options or alternatives that they might not known about or are simply curious about. As I frequently post, stay tuned ~ Sasha is a work in progress.
Oh and as for the freak couple that originally owned Sasha? I saw them towards the end of April while in a local market. The husband asked about Sasha and I told them she was going to be undergoing SCT in a few days to help her arthritis. His response? “Next time do the smart thing like us, get a poodle”. If attitudes like theirs are indicative of being smart, I opt to remain dumb.

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Something To Think About: “Does Time Heal? Part I

Something To Think About: “Does Time Heal? Part I

The outcome depends on what you fill the time with ~ or rather that’s my theory. Sometimes after life has dealt us a particularly bad hand it’s difficult to get up, shake yourself off and carry on. The pain of losing a loved one, a failed relationship, loss of a wonderful job all take an emotional toll, often on a psyche that’s been bruised once too often. Each of us processes grief differently; I’m not sure there is a “correct” way. Using the death of a much beloved pet as an example, I know people who raised a dog since it was a young pup, making her a part of their family. Their “human” kid and their “fur” kid grow up together. Play time was filled with squeals of fun from both and many times the dog accompanied the family on vacation. Years passed and one autumn day last  the now grown child, college bound, left the family home after tears and hugs were shared with his parents along with  tears, hugs and wet kisses with his furry best friend. At first the dog’s slow pace was attributed to melancholy from her “kid’s” absence. As  autumn waned and winter approached the aging dog didn’t shake what her owners initially thought was sadness. Their once frisky 2 month old puppy was now approaching 14 so they  scheduled a comprehensive examination with her trusted  veterinarian.  After a battery of diagnostic testing they were stunned to learn their “girl” has advanced canine lymphoma (Stage 5) and at best might gain a few extra months with chemo. They agonized and even argued with each other about telling their son. Ultimately they did not because of concern  he’d come home early to see her and the ramifications it could have on his semester finals. They devised a treatment plan with their vet which was palliative, addressing the pain and stress of illness while providing as much quality to her life as possible. When the son arrived home for Thanksgiving he was shocked, angry then heartbroken to see his faithful companion lying on the sofa, a fraction of her former self. Two weeks after he reluctantly returned to college the old girl passed with the help of her veterinarian. Here’s the tricky part; how does one handle the loss of a beloved dog after sharing your life with her for 14 years? The couple in my post chose to find a new dog the same day. They reasoned that a puppy would fill the void created by the old girls death and give the son a surprise when he came home for winter holiday. They called him to say the old girl was free of pain but never mentioned the new family member. In this particular case it created a terrible rift when their son arrived home for the holiday. He had no anger at the new puppy, only with his parents. There really isn’t a right or wrong answer. While immediately replacing a deceased pet with a new one might work for some, it could be a recipe for disaster for another. And once again I beg the question; does time heal all wounds? Does the instant family addition negate the years of love one shared with a companion animal? Does it signify a vacant heart or rather, one that is so shattered it craves puppy kisses from a new friend?

This is Callie Ann, my beautiful companion, best friend, protector  and muse for 10 years. I mourned her loss in November 2015 the polar opposite of the family above, opting to ride the “Crazy Train of Grief” yet we both loved our girls without reservation. Their deaths created scars which burned into our very souls, but we handled the time following our losses very differently. Does that mean their wounds were healed in one day or that they loved their dog  less?  Somehow I doubt it. They just chose a different healing process than me. My emotional scars are deep but are also a testament to the unconditional love I shared with a sweet black dog and I am slowly learning to embrace them because they define who I am.

 

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Today also marks 2 months since my dear friend put a gun to his head and committed suicide. I’ve tried to keep busy because to dwell on the “why” is a moot point as I cannot change the outcome. Time has passed slowly but I am coming to accept the loss. I’ve had a few people  comment about his possible reasons but I chose not to engage, even with  one individual who diagnosed my late friend as “prone to suicide” because of his lifestyle. He lived in a sweet cabin set back in the woods for 20 years. By choice ~ his. An environment that was perfect for someone who loved nature the way he did, rife with animals in their natural element, stately trees and an abundance of sounds. Like me, my friend was a voracious reader but the similarity stopped there because he enjoyed fantasy and  paranormal whereas I prefer my reading a bit more grounded. I bought him a series of books about a shapeshifter which he enjoyed immensely. In one of the books he found a quote by the author that he shared. I was dumbstruck when I heard it for it could have been written by him instead of author Patricia Briggs in her book “River Marked”:

“All life is rife with possibilities. Seeds have possibilities, but all their tomorrows are caught by the patterning of their life cycle. Animals have possibilities that are greater than that of a fir tree or a blade of grass. Still, though, for most animals, the pattern of instinct, the patterns of their lives, are very strong. Humanity has a far greater range of possibilities, especially the very young. Who will children grow up to be? Who will they marry, what will they believe, what will they create? Creation is a very powerful seed of possibility.”

Those words so accurately sum up my late friend. He had many losses in his life, many wounds that were so deep that they were incapable of closing. Yet he had a remarkable quest for knowledge, engaging in meaningful conversation/readings and pondering the future and all the possibilities it held. Yes he had deep, gouging scars which perhaps time did NOT heal, yet he used the years to his advantage; to question and learn ~ constantly growing. If only he could have seen that but his past  clouded his vision. I had terrible guilt following his suicide, that in some way I’d failed him. Time has relieved me of that burden and I no longer accept the onus of his actions yet time has not brought me the healing I still need to move forward. It will, just not yet.

To be continued…

 

I Am Beyond Blessed

I Am Beyond Blessed

This is definitely my shortest post ever. I want to shout from the rooftop although in the Western Mountains of Maine there are only trees.

I HAVE WON! My four-year battle with a Whistleblower case is over! I honestly think the ultra prestigious law firm that represented the nursing facility was testing me because they were adamant about taking it to trial. We had jury selection the end of last week. The corporate climbing female lawyer told me how she was looking forward to having me on the witness stand. My response?  “No dear. Actually the pleasure will be all mine”. I bluff quite well I’ve discovered because I was actually quaking in my Danskos. The most important component is I refused to sign a confidentiality agreement. Non-negotiable. To agree to keep quiet was never a bargaining chip on the table. Because by doing so, what would that say about my ethical obligation to a patient? The very situation that started this legal battle?  That I cared more about money than morals and respect. That was how I viewed it.

So even though technically I’ve won, I feel more as if a victory albeit it small has been achieved for patients who for whatever reason, don’t realize they have the right to speak up, speak out and be treated with respect. My only regret is that my dear friend is no longer here to share this with; he too lost his job merely because he was at the top of the pay scale. His 22 year old replacement was paid half the weekly salary. How sad…

“…Because Faith is merely the road that leads us to the Greater Love…”

 

The World Makes No Sense

The World Makes No Sense

Much has been posted on social media today about gun rights following the horrific tragedy in Orlando. Let me make my position clear. I am not anti-gun. I pulled a trigger for the first time when I was 7. I spent many days target shooting in a boggy area by my home in NJ, sometimes most of the day because it kept me out of my mother’s way. I am not nor ever was a hunter so my gun activity was limited to a line of cans than bullseye then skeet. I’m extremely proficient with rifles, pistols and shotguns. It used to irritate both my father and later my husband that I was a better marksman than either of them. My first gun is mounted high on my living room wall and I have a CWP (which I don’t even use). Having said that, I do not nor ever will believe that assault rifles should be legally sold to John Q. Public. No civilian has need of such a powerful weapon – period. And to the gun enthusiasts who believe in owning/carrying a weapon for the purpose of protection I say this. If you are in a mall with friends or family one day and a deranged person begins randomly shooting with an assault rifle, do you really think you can stop them with your gun? Are you that confident in your ability that you believe you can fire upon and neutralize the shooter? In a crowded place full of running, panic-stricken people? Without harming an innocent person? I consider myself an excellent shot but I would never attempt a neutralization unless I was miraculously standing near the shooter. Even then, a handgun is no match for an assault rifle. They have detachable mags and they fire in powerful bursts which travel well over 300 yards. I just pulled up a recent update on the Orlando massacre and sadly was not surprised to see that the shooter used an AR-15, the same weapon used in San Bernardino, Aurora and Sandy Hook. It’s a military grade weapon yet somehow it’s become the most popular assault rifle in America. The AR-15 can fire between 45 and 60 rounds per minute depending on the skill of the operator.
So I ask one more time, why do civilians need these weapons?

And finally, hours after this senseless and savage act, a blood-donation foundation in Orlando, OneBlood, posted on Facebook and Twitter, “There is an urgent need for O Negative, O Positive and AB Plasma blood donors.” The irony struck me. It’s legal to buy an AR-15 assault rifle but pushing aside all the technical jargon, it’s illegal for a gay man to donate blood to victims of this massacre. The world makes no sense.

I Sat in Your Chair Today

I Sat in Your Chair Today

Technically it’s mine but you always chose it when we went to the river.

Seven weeks ago you stood on your lawn with police and rescue personnel present, and in the shadow of the setting sun, put a gun to your head and pulled the trigger. The last words you said were more in the form of a question. “What? I can’t hear you”.

When I learned of your death my universe was suddenly a very vast place and I was extremely alone. I guess I was selfish because I always counted on you being there. You were my sounding board, my go to person. I knew you suffered from depression and had made a suicide attempt many years ago. I knew because of the unwarranted termination of your job of 20 years, you were without healthcare coverage thus you weren’t able to continue either your therapy sessions or afford the antidepressant you’d taken for years. I wish I could have helped you! I begged you to use your VA benefits, apply for assistance through the local healthcare system, visit a labor lawyer – but you refused. I couldn’t understand why but finally stopped harping. Was I wrong? Should I have kept after you? What could I have done differently my dearest friend? I was always there for you but it was difficult to reach you because of your damn unreliable ISP and finicky computer. You never knew that I was planning on buying you a laptop. I tried to talk you into a cell phone off my plan but as usual you declined using the idiotic excuse “I don’t like all the noises cell phones make”. You and your damn independent streak. Looking at my words I realized that I’ve just described myself. It’s amazing we melded so well despite our arguments, like a married couple. Hence I introduced you as husband #2. I smile as I recall the expression on your face the first time I introduced my “two husbands” to the very Catholic women at the Parish Hall. They took my humor rather well I thought.
You had that quirky little smile when I said or did something outrageous or just plain dumb. Like getting stuck in your snowy driveway not once but twice the same day. Hell within the same hour. I miss that smile. I miss your wit and listening to your antigovernment theories while desperately trying to keep a straight face. I miss your hesitation when I hugged you goodbye. You lived such a solitary life that you had difficulty with human touch.
My four years of hell have reached an apex. The past few weeks have been an emotional roller coaster unlike anything I’ve ever experienced since those horrific childhood years. Every morning I wake up and within five minutes I’m a wreck because I realize I’m one day closer to being in a courtroom. The mere thought of it terrifies me, a residual effect of standing alone in front of a judge when I was just a child. Of being sentenced to a reform school for being incorrigible at an age when little girls still play with dolls. No – I’m not going there today. I refuse. I’m trying to think of the courtroom as just another room in a big building. Like a large room in a museum or a restaurant except with a different decor and theme. I tell myself that at the end of the day I’m free to walk out of the courtroom just as I would any other large room or venue. I’m trying to reprogram my mind. As frightening as it is to enter a court room, I have to tell myself it’s not, it’s a piece of cake, I can do it, it’s only a room, and I’m in rooms all the time, every day of my life. At my house, at the store, it’s just a room with walls and strangers in it, no different from any building I go to each week – post office, bank, grocery store, it’s just another building and I’ll be in a room like any other store I frequent, but at a different address and without shopping privileges! Somehow it’s not working for me though; my innate terror is simply too great. So I’ve vacillated whether I should settle out of court. It’s easier on so many levels. No emotional “courtroom” appearance, no testimony, not having my character and very essence attacked by a bitch desperately to rise in the law firm. I’ve met her type so many times before – driven and ambitious. Society often thinks it’s only men that ruthlessly climb the corporate ladder. They’ve obviously never met a woman who’s determined to move up the company food chain. They epitomize the word cutthroat . Settling would resolve nearly all my angst. A nice tidy business arrangement. I’d sign a confidentiality agreement and they’d give me a check. However therein lies my problem. This whole fiasco has never been about money. It’s never been about revenge. It was about the right to patient privacy, something they’re entitled to plus guaranteed under HIPAA. It’s about an employer who, instead of rectifying a problem, chose to retaliate against a nurse who was only doing her job. I’m not naive. I know many people enter the field at a young age because of the money, the ability to work the hours or amount of days they want, and the fact that no matter where they move they can usually find a job. Then there’s the people like me who are in a completely different profession but because of a life experience or circumstance find their calling is nursing. We go back to school (again) and armed with our degree jump headfirst into our new career. Of course it’s a nice paycheck but for me the greatest satisfaction was helping my patients. A nurse doesn’t just address physical needs such as wound care or pain relief. We are duty bound to protect their rights. Patients have a right to privacy which means you cannot discuss them by name when you’re off duty. It also means that if you see their privacy being violated you are obligated to address it.

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Yet here I am, four years later ~ drained of our savings, penalized and taxed for cashing in pensions, and dreading the day I have to appear in court. All because I reported a facility that failed to address the problem I reported several times.
Having said that, I’ve rejected a settlement offer. I know it’s crazy and I’m a glutton for punishment but I keep thinking about you. About the day that young woman fired you in front of everyone. I think about my termination and what it’s cost me. I think about all the other people who are unfairly terminated by an employer just because they’d been there so long that they are at the top of the pay scale. Or terminated because they called attention to safety violations. Or maybe because the manager simply didn’t like them. If you aren’t protected by a union your job is fair game.
Employers have to be made to realize that their employees are real people. With a life outside of work, perhaps a family or a dependent parent. They have bills to pay, obligations to meet. If they’re fired through no fault of their own they struggle financially and emotionally. And that’s where my problem is. I’m not naive in that I know I can’t change the world but by going to trial, speaking out, I can change one employer and that’s good enough for me. If I quietly accept a check and sign a confidentiality agreement, the employer is in essence buying my silence. They are free to continue caring more about insurance reimbursement than patient rights. What will the past four years of struggle have been about if I allow myself to be bought? As much as I fear the courtroom, I could not live with myself if I compromise my ethics. And in a small way, I’ve decided to see this through for you as well. While not the same company, a victory will give me a certain amount of satisfaction.
You’re still with me in so many ways just as I know you’ll be with me in court. That’s good enough for me. Let’s kick some ass…

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My friend loved his cats!