Illness, Resilience and Spirituality

Two years ago I began corresponding with Marguerite Bouvard. She was looking for contributors for an anthology on illness and faith. I offered to write a chapter about my family’s experience caring for our son during his treatment for leukemia.

We continued to e-mail back and forth. I wrote my chapter, and Marguerite edited the anthology that includes the stories of twelve people that refer to different faith traditions:Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Native American,Yoga.  The book is titled Illness, Resilience and Spirituality.

Now I have the book in hand, and as I read through the chapters I see vulnerability as well as resilience. The book is not theological. It is the way twelve people have encountered illness and death, along with the questions that come with human frailty.

A serious illness leads to a search for hope. Some chapters have a perspective that seem self reliant. Other chapters find hope through the Bible and prayer. A couple of chapters mention how the faith of a grandmother was influential. 

Victoria Molt’s account of faith and prayer through mental illness touched me. My brother’s illness has sensitized me to the isolation that many with mental illness experience. 

The importance of a faith community stands out in many of the chapters. 

The chapter that I wrote is the first in the book and is titled, “Prayers Through Illness and Loss”. The book is available on Amazon. 

This post is linked with Booknificent Thursday and Literary Musing Monday

Coffee and Warm Cinnamon Rolls for the Melody of Life

On New Year’s Day we like to sip coffee and enjoy cinnamon rolls while we watch the Rose Parade on TV. I have a recipe that allows me to make the dough the afternoon/evening before, and then in the morning I shape and bake the rolls. 

My dear husband makes the coffee, flavored with cardamon. See the recipe in this post.

This year the theme of the Rose Parade was The Melody of Life. The great array of flowers, seeds, beans and vegetables used to make the beautiful floats are a testament to life created by God.

From my perspective mothers have a significant role in the melody of life and I was hoping that there would be some reference.  Towards the end of the parade a float sponsored by Mrs. Meyer’s natural household products went by.  I have used Mrs. Meyer’s lemon verbena and lavender scented dish detergents.

The ABC commentator mentioned that Mrs. Meyer, mother nine children, was on the float. I was pleased, but it didn’t dispel the sadness that we are missing so many children.

Babies and children are also part of the melody of life. Life News has reported that abortion was the leading cause of death in 2018. It is a great tragedy. Education about abortion will continue through organizations like Students for Life. The March for Life will take place again this month.

Here is my recipe for cinnamon rolls.

Ingredients:

2/3 cup butter (10 tablespoons)

1/4 cup honey

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup hot mashed potatoes

1 cup milk (almond, coconut or rice milk)

1 Tablespoon dry active yeast

1/2 cup warm water

2 eggs well beaten

5 -6 cups unbleached white flour (sometimes I reduce the amount of white flour, substituting one cup of spelt, barley or oat flour)

Add the butter to the mashed potatoes and mix to melt and combine. Add milk, honey and salt. Set this mixture aside and add the yeast to the warm water. Allow the yeast to begin to bubble and then add to the potato mixture (which should be lukewarm). Blend thoroughly and add the eggs, mixing well. Add flour to make a stiff dough.

I mix the dough in a large bowl and test the stiffness by kneading with my hand. If the dough is too sticky I add a little more flour. The dough should become elastic, a little sticky but holding together.

Then I place the dough in a large lightly greased bowl (with room to allow the dough to cool rise). Cover the bowl with a plate or waxed paper.

Ingredients for preparing cinnamon rolls:

1/2 cup butter

6 Tblsp. brown sugar

6 Tblsp. maple syrup

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 + 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven at 350 degrees. 

Combine granulated sugar and cinnamon. Roll out 1/2 of the dough into a rectangle—approximately 16” x 9”. Melt butter and spread 2 tablespoons over dough. Sprinkle dough with cinnamon sugar. Roll up the dough, beginning with long side of rectangle. You will have a roll-up that is 16 inches in length.

Prepare three 9” round cake pans for rolls. Place 1 + 1/2 tablespoon melted butter in each pan. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of brown sugar in each pan. Add 2 tablespoons of maple syrup to each pan and gently spread and mix.

Cut the rolled up dough into 2 inch pieces and place them cut side up in the prepared pans—about six rolls per pan. Repeat process with 2nd half of dough to fill the pans. Allow to rise for 20 to 30 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until rolls are beginning to brown. Turn out of the pans right after taking them from the oven. Let cool for as long as you can wait and enjoy!

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Every Baby is Valuable

My daughter gave me the book, The Strange Case of Dr. Couney: How a Mysterious European Showman Saved thousands of American Babies. The cover of the book suited the title.

Saving Premature Babies

The book is an attempt to follow the life and work of a man credited with saving the life of premature babies in the beginning of the  20th   century. At the time, infants weighing less than three pounds seldom survived. Dr. Couney was saving them.

He reserved  space  for  his  sideshow,  Infant Incubators with Living Infants, at expositions and amusement parks. It sounds distasteful to have infants in sideshows. The shows brought in money to cover the cost of infant care with profit.

Medical professionals criticized Dr. Couney for putting infants on display, even though hospitals were not equipped to provide care for little preemies. The author of this book noted that there wasn’t a choice between a sideshow and an ideal situation.  The choice in many cases, was  between a sideshow and letting children die*.

I was impressed by the practical approach that Dr. Couney had. The goal was to insure that the infants received breast milk for nourishment. Sometimes the mother would make daily trips to the show to breast feed her infant. Otherwise a wet nurse provided the breast milk. The infants were fed on schedule around the clock. If the baby couldn’t suck, breast milk was given with a tiny spoon.

Dr. Counney understood the need for absolutely sanitary conditions in the incubators that provided warmth. Babies were bathed and linens were changed. While caring for the infants, the nurses held and cuddled them.

Dr. Couney’s practice was successful in saving the life of many babies born prematurely. He recognized the value of feeding breast milk, maintaining excellent sanitary conditions and human touch.

There are a number of questions that the author pursues in her research. Was Dr. Couney really a doctor? Did he go to a medical school?

Update: Towards the end of the book one more observation about the health and survival of Dr. Couney’s premature babies is given. The author quotes a woman who was saved through Dr. Couney’s incubator care and was examined at New York Hospital when she was nine years old. “They said to my father, ‘There is something we don’t understand. All the babies that were in our incubators are going blind–but your baby’s eyes are good.’ “

Not until years later would the medical profession see the connection between the oxygen concentration that infants received in hospital nurseries and the development of blindness. A high oxygen concentration given to save the premature infant caused retrolental fibroplasia.

This post in linked to Five Minute Friday. Our prompt is: VALUE

*Dawn Raffel, The Strange Case of Dr. Couney: How a Mysterious European Showman Saved Thousands of American Babies, New York: Blue Rider Press, 2018, p. 126.

Always More to Learn

On Fridays I respond to a writing prompt that Kate Motaung gives. Over the past 24 hours I have mulled over the word given and am finally tapping the keys of my computer. The prompt is: COMPLETE

We spent a week at my daughter’s home—taking care of the grandkids, the dog, the cat & kittens, the fish and the butterflies. We had a good time, although we felt our age.

My daughter and her husband were at a medical conference while we were caring for their household. I thought about what she told me about the conference. She told me that the conference sessions affirmed the choices I had made as a mom when she was a toddler.

When she was 15 months old her health deteriorated after multiple courses of antibiotics and the vaccines given on schedule. I wrote about the stomach pain and the way her speech and behavior regressed after the MMR on this page of my blog.

At the time the pediatrician advised more medications. The gastroenterologist said that I was an over involved mother. He wanted me to admit this child to the hospital, leave her in his care for a week. This doctor told me I should stay home with my other children.

My husband and I took her to a different gastroenterologist who performed an intestinal biopsy while we stayed at the hospital. He said there were red patches on the lining of the intestine but he found nothing that he could diagnose.

During this time I was praying for God’s guidance.

I continued to journal all the meals and snacks that I offered. I wrote down the timing of the episodes of gas and abdominal pain and adjusted her diet.   Through a friend in the  Mothers  of  Twins  Club  I found  an  allergy/alternative medicine doctor. He guided us in treating the food intolerances and choosing supplements that would help.

I am thankful for the answers to prayer.

Now my daughter, as an adult and pediatric nurse practitioner, is grateful for the path we took.

As a nurse I am aware of changes in practice that have occurred because someone challenged accepted practice. It took many years for the importance of hand washing promoted by Dr. Semmelweis to be accepted. He observed that doctors were going from patient to patient and sometimes from an autopsy without washing their hands. He said that the failure to wash hands was causing childbirth fever. Despite the papers that he wrote, the lectures that he gave, he was ignored by many in the medical profession.

When I started working in labor and delivery making a cut in the pelvic floor—an episiotomy—during delivery was routine. Midwives have shown the benefit of delivering without an episiotomy. Routine episiotomy is no longer the rule.

Antibiotics were introduced in the 1940s. They successfully treated infections and before long they were being over prescribed. It took many years for the medical profession to see the effects of the over use of antibiotics.

Science is never complete. There is always more to learn.

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Two Different Viewpoints on Faulty Vaccines

On July 27ththe Wall Street Journal published an article titled China’s Vaccine Scandal. Parents in China have led protests on behalf of their children. I read through the article noting several paragraphs.
     Over the past couple of weeks parents in China have learned that a compulsory public-health program injected an unknown number of children with substandard vaccines. They are understandably furious.  . . .
     Chinese are particularly angry because similar cases have happened in recent years, followed by promises to crack down. In 2010 and 2013 hundreds of children were hospitalized and several died from faulty vaccines. Chinese companies have used official connections to avoid accountability for producing a range of defective products that kill and maim.

Today, July 31st, The New York Times published an article titled Angry Parents Protest in China Over Bad Vaccines for Children. The tone and conclusion of this article was a little different. Here are a few paragraphs:
     The protest followed reports this month that hundreds of thousands of children across China had been injected with faulty vaccines for diptheria, tetanus and whooping cough. . . .
     While the vaccines were not harmful, officials say, they left children at risk of contracting illnesses that they should have been protected against. . . .
     Public officials say that the problems at the two companies [pharmaceuticals] could lead to a broader backlash against vaccines in China, where an aggressive immunization effort in recent decades has helped eliminate polio and drastically reduce the spread of other diseases.

These two articles demonstrate different perspectives on the same situation. Vaccine safety is extremely important issue. I pray that the government in the United States would look carefully at vaccine safety. The pharmaceuticals have been relieved of any liability for harm to children. Who is going to make sure that profit doesn’t become more important than the health of children?

Required Vaccine Safety Reports Were Not Done

Parents have differing opinions about childhood vaccines. That is okay. I am a nurse and my children received the recommended vaccines in the 1980s and 1990s. But my daughter had vaccine reactions and eventually developed fibromyalgia.

Because of my family’s experience with vaccine reactions I support informed consent and parent involvement in decisions about vaccines.

It is good to understand the history behind our current vaccination program. In 1986 the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act was passed. So many lawsuits were taking place because of vaccine injuries that pharmaceuticals were relieved of any liability. Instead the government would compensate for vaccine injuries. More than 3.7 billion dollars has been paid out through this program.

Robert F. Kennedy has spent years researching vaccines, the ingredients in vaccines and the impact on childrens’ health. He looked at the law that was passed in 1986 and realized that the law included a mandate for improved  vaccine safety. The law required that the department of Health and Human Services submit reports to congress regarding the studies done and progress made for safer vaccines.

In August of 2017 a FOIA request was made for these reports. The result of the FOIA request for these reports has been made public. The reports cannot be found. It appears that they were never done.

Today the prompt for Five Minute Friday is: DONE

Different Environments: New Perspectives

I am joining the writing community, Five Minute Friday, today. We write for five minutes (or sometimes a little more). The prompt today is: ADAPT

Family - Bouquet

 

It was a decision I came to after much thought, choosing to work with physicians and midwives that attended home birth. I had worked in the hospital for many years.

I continued to work in the hospital labor/delivery unit on a  per  diem   basis, while taking weekend call for the home birth group.   Nurse colleagues in the hospital who knew about my second job warned me to keep quiet. Don’t tell any of the doctors.

There is a big divide and limited communication between hospital based birth attendants and home birth attendants. Home birth practitioners are reluctant to transfer patients to the hospital until absolutely necessary. Hospital staff only see the home birth patients that are in crisis. They don’t see the healthy births that take place at home.

I learned so much attending labor patients in their home. I carried supplies that might be needed (IV fluids, oxygen), and arrived at the home when a woman was in early labor. I assessed her and encouraged her to rest in early labor. As labor progressed I helped her with positions changes, suggested a warm shower and offered massage. I made sure she stayed hydrated and nourished.

It was so much easier for a woman to work with labor in her home. (I had taught Lamaze classes, but rarely saw such focus and ability to cope with labor in the hospital setting.)

It was my job to notify the doctor of any problems, and to update him on the progress of labor(so that he/she would arrive in time) . Of course, sometimes a woman needed the interventions available in the hospital. Sometimes I urged the doctor to transfer the patient. A couple of times I rode to the hospital with a labor patient needing intervention.

Hospital staff and home birth practitioners could benefit from switching places. They could learn skills from each other and develop better communication.

As I worked with a foot in both settings, I tried to adapt what I had learned in the home to the hospital setting. The home setting had given me new perspectives on birth.

A New Perspective and Mnemonic for Agape

Last night I tuned into an online nursing journal club. The article under discussion  was  A Nursing Practice Model Based  on  Christ:  the Agape Model written by Nancy Eckerd. The model is based on the Holy Spirit working through the nurse in her daily encounters with patients.

My thoughts were stuck on memories of the high tech environment of the labor/delivery unit that I once worked in. We spent so much time on computer screens, documenting and watching fetal monitors. My pocket held a hospital cell phone. Patients, doctors, nurse colleagues and pharmacists could call at any time.

Once I stood by a patient’s bedside as she prayed.  I  talked  with  the Christian friends that had come to support her. I participated in that spiritual moment. But I don’t remember many moments like that. The unit was just too busy.

I am no longer working in the hospital, but I realized that I could benefit from a new perspective. Am I attentive to the Lord, to the Holy Spirit, in the business of life? Daily life.

A mnemonic was offered for the agape* model of practice.

A   Accept Christ as Savior

G   Grow Professionally and Spiritually

A   Anticipate Supernatural Intervention

P   Prayer & Spiritual Gifts

E   Embrace Fruit of the Spirit**

This mnemonic can apply to Christian living, every day.

* The Greek Dictionary of the New Testament defines agape as: love, i.e. affection or benevolence.

Nancy Eckerd, A Nursing Practice Model Based on Christ: the Agape Model, Journal of Christian Nursing vol. 35. #2. p.130.

I am joining the Five Minute Friday community with this post. The prompt is: STUCK

No Thanks Birth Control

On Wednesday, November 15th, a social media campaign called #ThanksBirthControl went live on twitter. It is interesting that this was taking place while so many stories of sexual harassment were coming to light. What has happened to the way men treat women?

All through history there have been problems in relationships between men and women. We keep trying to figure this out in our human way, and some things have changed. In the United States we are blessed with equal opportunity for girls in our school system. In fact more girls are going to college than boys. (Why is that?)

Women have opportunities in sports, government and corporate jobs. But the area of sexuality is a big problem. Where is the respect for a woman’s body?   Do women appreciate  the  potential  they  have to carry new life?

Amazing Microbiome

I grew up during the sexual revolution.     The  birth  control  pill  was  released and quickly became popular while I was a teenager. It was claimed that men and women would have sexual equality. Women could enjoy sexual relationships without worrying about becoming pregnant. How has that worked out?

The birth control pill ushered in the need to legalize abortion. If the pill was not effective in preventing pregnancy, then there had to be another way.

Since the widespread use of hormonal birth control, the rate of breast cancer has increased. The Breast Cancer Prevention Institute (BCPI) has an article that explains the link between hormonal medication and breast cancer. You can access the article here.

Men were more than willing to leave the responsibility for the consequences of sexual intimacy entirely on women. It gave them a free pass. Casual sex became common.

I don’t think this climate has led to men being more respectful of women.

In truth, the only way for men and women to be truly equal is to follow the precepts of the Bible. Men and women have been created equal, but with different roles. A sexual relationship flourishes in a marriage that is centered on the love, sacrifice and forgiveness demonstrated by Jesus Christ.

#ThxBirthControl #ButNoThx

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New Insights About Health: The Microbiome

On  Fridays I have been joining the Five Minute Friday community. We write for five minutes on a prompt given by Kate Motaung. Sometimes my thoughts continue a little beyond the five minutes–marked by //. To visit this inspiring community of writers, click here. Today’s prompt is: SUPPORT

Yesterday I attended a seminar titled,  Probiotics,  Food & the  Immune  System. I sat next to a pharmacist. A physical therapist from my church was there also. There were about 100 people in attendance.

The lecturer was a petite, thin woman with dark hair and a face that was lit with passion for her topic. She was describing the microbiome to us. Medical scientists are uncovering the numerous and varied bacteria that live in the human gut and on mucous membranes. While some bacteria and fungi are harmful, others are very beneficial—and support health.

Ms. Pawlak explained the amazing network of communication that takes place via enzymes and proteins in our body. Bacteria in the gut are involved in this system.

I was fascinated as she talked about complex sugars, oligosaccharides, in breast milk. The infant does not digest these sugars. Instead the healthy bacteria in the intestine digest the sugars and are involved in insuring that the cells of the intestinal lining are fitting snugly together.

The microbiome supports health. //

She went on to discuss the cells in the immune system. There are many different types of leukocytes, myeloid cells and lymphoid cells. Each type of cell has a specific role in fighting infection.   The  lymphocytes target  infectious cells and set in motion the development of antibodies. T– cells and B–cells are lymphocytes.

Healthy T-cell. Image from NIH

Ms. Pawlak was so happy to share a slide that showed a T– cell releasing proteins that were directed at a B– cell. The slide had been developed from an electron microscope. It looked like the round T- cell was releasing tiny crumbs that were floating towards the B- cell. The proteins contained the information needed to develop antibodies.

Our instructor shared her sense of wonder with us. The human body is amazing. We are constantly learning more.

We can say with the Psalmist: I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14

Amazing Microbiome