Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pruning and Shearing God's Little Things

written by Stephie Goldfish

Her words cut me like a dagger. Maybe mine did her.

I said to her, I need my space, and she moved over on the other side of the couch, I said, don't you know boundaries, she said, I used to rock you to sleep, I said, maybe that's what's wrong with me, and she said, don't you know you shouldn't say things like that to your mother, and she continued, you're suppose to honor your parents.

And she said, it also says don't be exasperating your children.

She said, I'm 73 years old, and she said, no, mom, you're 74, and she asked, how old will I be nine years from now, and she continued, shoot, by the time you start receiving your pension benefit, I'll be...

And she said, dead, maybe.

It hurts like a dagger. All these words thrown and flung about without thinking of the consequences.

I'm sorry, mom, for what I said.

I do need my space, but it's not only space from you I need. I am just like that. I can't be in close proximity with hardly anyone. Even when I would lay down next to him I felt like I was smothering.

She is outside digging up the weeds around one of her small pine trees. I came in and sat on the bed. I am writing. She came in and laid down trying to rest.

I said, her words hurt me, maybe mine did her too.

There was silence.

He began kneading the soft blue blanket like he's playing on the piano and then curled up next to her.

I said, I can sit here and mull over the hurt, but instead, I prayed, a long, silent prayer for forgiveness, for thankfulness, for long lives, and for kinder words spoken to my mother.

I went outside to see about her, worrying about the heat, and there she sat in the grass and dirt working on her pine tree, pruning so diligently, shearing so carefully.

The strong fragrance of the pine caught my breath. I stood for a moment and just breathed.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Congenital Heart Disease Tests: 6-Minute-Walk

written by Stephie Goldfish

As a young girl, I often watched shows like the Bionic Woman in admiration of the ease and speed with which she moved. I dreamed of running a marathon, even though I had trouble running one lap around the track field. I had hope in modern medicine and what the future might bring.

Some of the medicine and technological advancements that have been discovered since 1983, the year I first was diagnosed with my heart and lung problem, require being seen by medical doctors and scientists who specialize in my specific heart and lung physiology, which is usually at a medical facility located in large metropolitan areas, such as New York, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Raleigh/Durham.

An example of why I choose to be seen at a major medical facility or clinic that specializes in Adult Congenital Heart Disease is because of the new medicines and treatments that are researched and developed. These tests and medicines prescribed for me there are routine, but may not have even been heard of at most other hospitals.

One such test that is routinely given every three to four months for my congenital heart and lung disease is called a 6-Minute-Walk Test. This test measures my pulse rate and oxygen saturation (O2 Sat) in a short span walk lasting a total of six minutes. The test measures how much oxygen I’m getting and how fast and low the O2 Sat drops upon minimal to mild exertion.

In preparing for the 6-Minute-Walk, I make sure I wear comfortable shoes and clothes. The technician straps a pulse-oximeter reader to my forehead and I carry the monitor around my neck so it is not in the way when I walk. An EKG test is done before and after the test. I’m hooked up to a small tank of oxygen which I pull while walking. I am started on 4 liters of O2 and the technician increases the O2 as I walk and as my O2 Sat level drops. I look almost like the Bionic Woman when all the apparatus is hooked up, but hardly match the speed and distance.

When I begin the test my O2 Sat is around 85%. And, as the picture shows, my O2 Sat dropped to 57% upon completion, and probably went even lower during the walk.

This specific test is used to see how my O2 Sat drops during exertion and to see how the medicine I’ve been prescribed is working. The goal is to have my O2 Sat level as high as possible on exertion, and with the new medicine I'm prescribed and with oxygen therapy my O2 Sat has improved.

Anyone in the medical field knows, or any patient knows, that when an O2 Sat falls under 90% it causes alarm to the nursing staff and doctors, so when you have an O2 Sat falling below 85% is even greater cause for concern. So using the oxygen with medicine therapy helps the heart from over working and thus prevents me from going into complete heart failure sooner than expected.

Doctors don’t know how my body uses such low oxygen, but over time my body has compensated and I’m used to it. It’s normal for me, but hardly normal at all. Isn’t it amazing what our hearts can do?

After the 6-Minute-Walk test at Duke University Medical Center, which has an Adult Congenital Heart Clinic, my doctor, Dr. Terry Ann Fortin, was concerned because I have been having trouble keeping up with my regimen and routine of taking my medicines and using my oxygen. Dr. Fortin specializes in Adult Congenital Heart Disease and also specializes in Pulmonary Hypertension (secondary) that comes with some Congenital Heart Disease. I had been worrying about my vitamin D levels, but Dr. Fortin sat with me and told me straight out that I am most likely going to die from congenital heart disease and pulmonary hypertension and from NOT using my oxygen, not vitamin D deficiency. And since I've been sort of unsettled in my living environment over the past five years, she also told me to get somewhere and take your medicine and use your oxygen, because taking the medicine and using the oxygen requires consistency on a daily basis.

I am happy to report that since my last appointment I have been maintaining a better routine, and hopefully I will pass my next appointment with flying colors.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


written by Stephie Goldfish

Fragile, handle with care, thirteen boxes
shipped across the USA by bus three or
four times in a lifetime wear down the
soul, sitting in corners, collecting dust

Do not bend, photos, mailed with
hundreds of letters through snow, rain,
sleet, and heavy wind, but how do you
keep the spirit protected from the pain

Hearts are bound to be broken and spirits
are certain to be crushed and bent, but
loving deeds and words spoken at the
right time surely do mend