Thursday, April 29, 2010

Lessons from an Eccentric

I can still remember riding in Marty’s parent’s big, grey Lincoln Town car that night. It was way back in the 20th century, the 70’s to be exact. It was a warm summer night in the panhandle of Texas and we were telling Marty’s parents, Arty and Jean, we were planning on getting married the following January. It was a horrifying, anxiety-ridden, sweat provoking experience for a young man who up till now had never accomplished or done anything of consequence. Marty and I were both still relative babes.

Marty’s Father, Arty, was this sort of John Wayne’sque, big, burly, rough, self-made, agricultural entrepreneur. The whole situation was completely intimidating for a long-haired do-nothing who really wanted to marry the man’s one and only baby daughter. My most fervent desire was to simply get past this entire conversation. We were in the back of this huge car, the west Texas night air still warm but cooling as the sun had set. Arty had the air conditioning in the car running full blast but I was still really hot. As I recall little beads of sweat were running down the middle of my back sticking my shirt to my back and my back to the leather of the back seat.

Marty’s Mom, Jean, was your pretty typical farmer’s wife, though not nearly as quiet and unassuming as she often pretended. Jean was a very passive-aggressive, independent woman and she was more than just a little bit of what we can politely call, eccentric. She could say and sometimes do the oddest things and woe unto the wait staff that didn’t keep her coffee cup filled. She had recently, at the insistence of Arty, quit smoking and she was forever chewing Nicorette gum and I think privately cursing Arty for putting her through this perpetual nicotine withdrawal. She was not a woman to be trifled with.

Just as we were going over a set of railroad tracks I sort of stumbled and blurted out that Marty and I wanted to get married; it’s funny what you remember and funny what you forget, I don’t remember my exact words but I remember slowing over the railroad tracks. Arty slowed the car just enough to gently roll over the tracks and kind of growled, “I’m not that surprised, I think that will be okay.” I remember feeling a small sense of relief. At least he let me stay in the car, when he slowed for the tracks I thought he might toss me on the pavement.

Arty growled and harrumphed a couple more times as we kept riding in the car toward Rita Blanca Lake, the only body of water within 100 miles. I figured I would be okay if he tried to drown me, the lake wasn’t that deep and I figured I could swim better than some old farmer.

Jean, who had been stone quite, finally turned and looked at Marty and I as we sat in the back seat. She sort of looked me up and down, then turned to Marty and speaking to both of us said, “That’s fine with me as long as you both say you can love and accept each other just as you are today, right now. You both need to know neither of you will ever change that much, you will not be able to change each other; you will not be able to fix each other. Can you say that?”

I was a bit stupefied. The person who was clearly the flakiest person in the car had very succinctly offered this very insightful, wonderfully simple advice; she intuitively provided the sage wisdom of one who has been there and known a successful and enduring marriage. Jean was clearly right, Jean was dead on, beyond making a commitment to get married, Marty and I had to make a commitment of acceptance of each other as we were right then, not what we dreamed we might become.

It was too simple, we couldn’t promise to love, honor and cherish until we died thinking, “oh I like most of her, and I can fix the rest over the years.” It just doesn’t work that way. We do grow, we do change, we do evolve, but as Jean said, we needed to be able to love and accept each other as were right then, at that moment because at our core, we are what we are and you can’t count on people changing to meet your ideas of perfection.

Me, I have always been full of advice, confident in my ignorance, borderline bombastic in my pontification. I do like to listen to myself expound from time-to-time. If I have said, “You need to” once I’ve said it a thousand times, I cringe every time I hear myself say it, but I know a lot of good stuff and other people need to listen.

I can honestly say the best advice I give, even when not asked, is what Jean told Marty and I so many years ago. That evening a reasonably frightened young man and his prospective bride heard wise words that we have tried to heed for over 30 years, because after all, as we change, as we evolve, we still need to accept who we are, right then.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Smells Like a Chicken?

I had just finished preparing supper, ham and that healthful and nourishing mac and cheese with some green beans, when I went to check on Marty. Erica, one of our fantastic caregivers, had transferred her from her bed to her wheelchair so Marty could come to the dining area for kitchen. I wasn’t finished when she got up so Erica had moved Marty to the living room. She was sitting watching the news with her back to me, a very tempting target for a troll like me.

Marty has always hated it when people would come and tap her on her shoulder to get her attention. She still doesn’t like it, she just doesn’t like being touched like that, she doesn’t like being poked. Being just a little bit of an antagonist I snuck up behind her quietly, tapped her right shoulder and moved silently and quickly to her left side.

I tapped.

She said, “What?” never looking away from the television, watching some inane newscasters prattle on about who knows what.

I pushed my luck trying to get Marty to react and I tapped her left shoulder again, this time a little more insistently. I moved to her right thinking she would look to her left. She never moved her head and didn’t seem to move her attention from the talking head on TV.

She said, “What do you want, is supper ready?” She clearly knew it was me without me saying anything. What, she recognized my tap? She knew I was jacking with her and was not going to give me the satisfaction of reacting. She stared straight.

I bent down and looked around on her left side, leaned down close to her face, (she doesn’t particularly like people breathing on her either) and said, “How did you know it was me?”

“I smelled you.”

“You smelled me?” I asked. “And what exactly do I smell like”?

Marty smiled, I could see the light of an imp pass across her eyes and her face as she slowly turned over the best smart ass answer she could, and she said, “Chicken”.

“I smell like chicken?” I asked. “I haven’t been cooking chicken, I’m cooking ham.”

She looked to her left, saying with her eyes, “move your face out of my space”, and said, “sorry but you smell like chicken tonight” and she started smiling, then chuckling.

Marty has always cracked herself up, she was and is a great lover of humor, especially her own. She is still one of her biggest fans, she just doesn’t have the same number of brain neurons firing as she did before the stroke. She's not quite as quick cognitively but from time to time she really works hard at being the consummate smart ass.

Marty loves to laugh, she always has; she still really likes making other people laugh and smile, she always has. It’s one of the wonderful things about Marty, it always has been.

Friday, April 23, 2010

I'm Lovin' Me Some Good Drugs

Roughly 16 years ago our son, Matt, now 30, had a small scratch on his leg. That scratch became infected and he ended up having emergency surgery on his leg to remove dead flesh, spent about three weeks in the hospital and about six weeks on some of the strongest antibiotics known. It was really our first brush with the power of bacteria and the miracle of antibiotics.  I've often wondered how this would have ended in 1910, would Matt have both legs, would he have survived?

Bacteria in all of their assorted sizes and colors have been the bane of Marty’s existence since she had her second stroke. Respiratory, sinus, urinary tract infections are a fairly regular part of our life. We have learned about methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus, e coli, pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus Aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and more. It’s amazing how many naturally occurring things, like bacteria, can really cause your day to go sour quickly.

If not for the fairly consistent infections our home life could be reasonably normal (whatever that is). We have gained the skills we need to handle the disabilities from the stroke; it’s handling the persistent medical issues that wear on you. The bacteria require constant vigilance, and cause the most danger to Marty on a day to day basis. It’s the bacteria causing us to be frequent flyers at the offices of the Great and Wise, it’s the bacteria pushing us to have the blood tests, it’s the bad, bad bacteria. For people who had strokes in the 40's and 50's -- this wasn't even a discussion.

On Saturday night I scratched my head, it itched and it felt good to give it a really good scratch. Because I live with a lovely woman who is a human Petri dish the Saturday night scratch had me in the doctor’s office by Tuesday. (Yes, I do wash my hands religiously) It’s never good when the doctor looks at your forehead and says, “Impressive, I don’t like the looks of that.” In a matter of about 48 hours I had developed an itchy, painful bout of cellulitis, a nasty skin infection.

I’m not sure which of the panoply of bacteria attacked me but it moved fast. Then the miracle of medicine, I started taking only one of the roughly 120 antibiotics available to us. It worked and when you think about it, it’s amazing. Prior to the advent of sulfa drugs and penicillin at the turn of the 20th century people with cellulitis, people with staph infections, people with strep infections died, I’m going to be alright. If I had been around at the turn of the century and scratched my melon like this I probably wouldn't be around to tell this story.

Antibiotics are amazing things. The scientists of the world have developed all kinds of drugs for us to fight the evil bacteria (I know, not all bacteria is bad). There are penicillin based, fluoroquinolines, cephalasporins, sulfas, tetracyclines, gentamicins and macrolids. There are broad spectrum, narrow-spectrum, oral, IV, gram-negative and gram-positive and the list can get longer. All of them do the same thing, or not, or they do it differently somehow, some way, I don’t know, I don’t understand it, it makes my head hurt. God invented doctors to know this stuff.

I know we have to be careful with our use or overuse of antibiotics. Evil bacteria are really pretty sneaky about morphing into something resistant to some drugs we use too much. I hope our medicine can continue to keep pace with nature because our ability to fight infection has increased all of our life spans and improved the quality of our lives, like not having to cut off limbs on a regular basis.

Sometimes it’s pretty easy to think simply taking a pill will cure all. We take so much for granted. I know antibiotics saved my son’s leg and probably his life. I know they have saved literally given life back to Marty. I suspect this minor little skin infection would not have been minor without the good services of a Doctor and miracle pills. I’m glad some really smart, inspired people figured out that whole moldy penicillin thing.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Bird and a Blessing

Sunday was a pretty good day for us on a couple of fronts. Marty has been feeling pretty good and that always makes any day okay. We also had a really great visit from a couple of our younger friends from Houston and they were carrying a really wonderful story.

Marty is currently off of any antibiotics, she has adapted reasonably well to the anti-seizure meds, Keppra XR, and she is slowly, albeit painfully beginning to use her right arm more and more. When she uses it to eat we essentially do the wave at the table cheering her and encouraging her. We do this and she gives me her "eat poo and die look". I don't care, I really kind of like playing the fool for her from time to time. She thinks I'm kind of goofy.

Our young friends from Houston came by early yesterday afternoon with some really cool and amazing news. We have known Elizabeth ever since we came to Waco and have watched her grow up to be a wonderful woman. She is a Physician's Assistant in Houston and we are about as proud of her as her parents are. She's married John a few years back and we think he is okay; he had to be because Elizabeth liked him enough to marry him, oh well. Marty really likes it when they visit. Elizabeth was always one of hers.

I hate to break their news here because I don't want to steal the thunder from the prospective Grandmother, Sue. She should get to shout and sing praise the lord to announce her own grandchild. Oops, maybe I just did. Marty and I were thrilled that they came over and told us about the baby. This child will be born into a very loving family, and Elizabeth and John will be fantastic parents, it's just amazing to watch these people who were once so young become parents.
After our faux children came by Marty and I went out for our Sunday afternoon drive. Remember when old people used to do this? We aren't that old and gas is about 10x the cost but it's still a great excuse to leave the house and see some flowers. We drove around and sinned just a little bit with a Snickers ice cream bar. Those suckers are really good.

When we got back I started to transfer Marty from the car to her wheelchair. She normally is giving me instructions on how to do this, "get my chair closer", "you got me", "stand me up", "and let me down". Being bossy is her normal. I’m not sure why I like it now, it used to drive me nuts.

Right before I moved her I saw a cardinal I had seen flying around our van for several days. The bird kept seeing his reflection in the outside mirror of the van. Cardinals apparently guard their turf closely and this bird kept seeing his reflection in the mirror and was flying off and then flying back to peck the invader in the mirror. He did this several times until he felt satisfied he had vanquished the other bird.

I told Marty to watch and she turned her head just enough to see nature meet mirrored glass. She watched a bit and then said, "You know, that has to hurt". I suspect she tells the truth. I'm sure there is a greater allegorical comment I could make about the bird, the conflict of modern life with nature and the glory of procreation; but it’s simpler to say, it was a good day with abundant blessings.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The 2nd One -- Part I -- Back Again

Marty and I had developed a really bad habit of eating supper in the living room while watching the somewhat inane but funny television show "Everybody Loves Raymond". It was our 30th wedding anniversary and we were celebrating in the emotionally and physically fatigued manner befitting the end of the holidays. We were just getting over a long trip to Dalhart, Texas and Angel Fire, New Mexico.

We had celebrated Christmas, Marty's mother's 80th birthday and snow skied in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It was an epic voyage and an appropriate celebration of Marty's survival from her ruptured aneurysm. It had not been a particularly relaxing return trip out of the mountains and to Waco so celebrating wasn't on anyone’s priority list. Rest and relaxation with mind numbing comedy seemed to be the best way to celebrate this anniversary.

We had been to the doctor that day to see Great and Wise because Marty just didn't feel well and I was worried and anxious, a condition which had become all too familiar. Marty had been having vague symptoms of something, I just didn't know what, it is really hard to explain, I just felt like things weren't right. The good doctor checked Marty over and said she seemed okay but her blood pressure was a bit elevated. We settled in for our fabulous supper of grilled chicken and I felt a bit better just being relaxed in our home.

We finished eating in peace, silently. Marty was to my right in a large recliner, I glanced at her, then I looked again as I saw her slumping to her left. Marty's face was slack, contorted, drooping in a way that could only be one thing. She was drooling just a bit from the left side of her mouth and she tried to talk but couldn't. She had a look of confusion, but confusion mixed with terror. She intuitively knew what was happening, but didn't, all at the same time. On a scale of worst moments in our life, it was at the top, we both knew it was another stroke.

I took the empty plate from her lap, the food gone. I called 911 and tried to tell the person on the other end of the phone what was happening as calmly as I could. I simply could not believe I was standing there, asking for emergency help while the beautiful brain of my wife was starved for blood. Police arrived first; they do that in our community, quickly followed by an ambulance.

Marty began to revive a little as the EMT's did their thing, taking blood pressure, checking oxygen saturation levels, asking Marty questions, asking me questions, looking at her eyes, listening to her heart, all while she sat slumped in her chair. The slack in her face began to slowly recede and Marty began to recover a bit. I was afraid, confused, angry, anxious and probably on the verge of exploding. It's what I wanted to do, just blow up, blood, guts, and soft tissue everywhere, paint the walls of our house.

There was no question we were headed back to the emergency room at Providence Hospital. I just wanted them to hurry. They gently loaded Marty onto the gurney and rolled her out of the house. I had seen this before, I hated seeing it again. I had lived 50 years without seeing anyone I loved being put into an ambulance. Now it was happening again. I watched as they loaded Marty into the back and closed the doors. I stood outside of the ambulance watching through the windows in the doors as they hooked Marty up to IVs and locked her gurney into place. For a brief moment I thought I would just open the doors, push the EMT’s aside, unhook my wife and leave. I wanted, I needed control, I had none.

The upside of going to the ER in an ambulance with stroke symptoms is you get seen quickly. There really aren’t any down sides. They had Marty in an exam room with a doctor by the time I got there. It's a short trip from our house, less than 10 minutes, and in that time I called both of our children and Sue, one of our Persons (see earlier post).

The ER doc immediately ordered a series of tests, most importantly a CAT scan. Marty could no lover have MRI's because of the metal clip in her brain, so a CAT scan would be the most definite test to identify a stroke. Because Marty had previously experienced a cerebral hemorrhage the docs really did not want to give her blood thinners or clot busters. We were really kind of caught between a rock and a hard place; the best treatments for strokes were not really available to us.

Marty symptoms kind of waxed and waned while she was in the exam room. One minute she could still move her left arm and left leg and she was completely lucid. In some ways, at some moments, I could hear and see shadows of Marty before the first stroke. She was funny, she was sarcastic, she was cracking wise and she was trying to entertain. At other moments you could see the classic stroke effects, her face drooped, she was confused, her left side was limp, and her speech was slurred. The doctors, including Great and Wise who made a dash to the hospital, were fairly certain it was a stroke, but the CAT scan did not show bleeding (good), but it also did not show any signs of a stroke, yet.

Marty was stable, it was clear we were dealing with another catastrophic event, but she was stable. After several hours we were joined by Matt, Erin and Sarah, all making mad dashes from their parts of Texas to be with their Mom. It was another case where we just didn’t know, we just really didn’t know what was going to happen next.

They moved Marty to the Intensive Care Unit at Providence. We went to ICU as a precaution and because there were no other rooms available. Just so you know, the first of the year is a particularly sucky time to year to go into the hospital, it's much too crowded.

I went with Marty to the ICU and the nurse there promised me, swore to me she would personally care for Marty and watch over her all night. By this time it was about 3 in the morning. My children and I once again left Marty, once again we went home to try and sleep, once again I looked at my wife and hoped and prayed I would see her again. It’s hard leaving.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Just Trust Her on This

As a father of a daughter, part of my life’s work has always been to frown at the boys Erin drug into our home. I’m not a particularly intimidating fellow but I did my best to really frown and look threatening at all of the guys who wanted to date or in any way get to know my baby girl. They all needed to know I had my girl’s best interests at heart and their interest should never bump into my interests or I would get excessively cranky. Marty, bless her heart, she just laughed at me.

Over the years Erin has drug in several guys, all okay in one way or another, none really acceptable to “the Dad”. None really lived up to the perfect sort of man for Erin, you know, a guy like, well me. Then one day she brought Lyle home. I don’t remember that first introduction, but I do know it didn’t occur to me at the time he was a contender for my daughter’s heart. My first impression was the same as most of the guys I had met, he didn’t really measure up to my standards, perfect, but that was okay, I figured he was just kind of a passing fancy.

It wasn’t long before we began to understand Lyle was not a temporary kind of thing, it appeared he was going to be a somewhat regular fixture with Erin. Frankly, I was a bit perplexed as he didn’t really seem to fit the mold of the previous suitors; he wasn’t necessarily the guy I would have selected but then I wasn’t picking and apparently didn’t get a whole lot of input in the selecting. I pressed Erin a bit on this fact in a lot of subtle and some not so subtle ways like, “what the hell are you thinking anyway”. She came back with, “trust me on this”. My response, “fine, it’s your life.” Sure.

Slowly we began to get to know Lyle and he began to know Erin’s family and our particular situation. I watched Lyle closely, I watched Lyle with Erin, I watched Lyle with Marty. I wanted to gauge his level of comfort with Marty, test his level of comfort with her as a person, and as Erin’s mother. I wanted to see how he handled Marty’s disability.

Lyle had never known Marty before her strokes; he didn’t know exactly how smart, how quick, how funny she was. He didn’t know Marty as the protective, meddling, problem solving consummate Mother she had been. He only saw her as she was today, a person in a wheelchair with significant disabilities. He was not scared, he was not put off, he was not afraid. He touched her, he hugged her, he talked to her as a person, he kissed her and let her kiss him. I was most impressed; he passed the can you handle the broken Mom test.

I got to know Lyle even better on a “bonding” trip from Waco to our lake house, just the two of us. I got to expound and advise ad nauseum; he listened patiently and told me stories about himself, his life and how he grew up. We confessed some of our sins and talked about why we sinned. Our backgrounds were remarkably similar. We talked and listened to the filthy comic stylings of Rodney Carrington, a real experience to have with the father of your girl friend. He was a good guy, I was still a skeptic, this was my baby girl who wanted me to “trust her on this”. Okay.

My big epiphany with Lyle came when he sat with Erin right before and after she had surgery. Lyle was there to hold her hand, Lyle was there to watch her, Lyle was there when I couldn’t be there to make sure Erin was safe. Lyle didn’t run, Lyle didn’t shy away when it got a little hard, Lyle had sand, Lyle had substance.

Given the last five years with Marty I have come to value the importance of substance, the importance of being there beside your partner when it gets bad, when it gets a bit stinky, scary and your heart gets a little tight from anxiety. Finding someone who will sit with you when you are sick, someone who will hold your hand when you are afraid and vulnerable, someone who will hold your hair when you are riding the porcelain bus is really one of the great things in life. I know if I had been the one who had the strokes Marty would have held my hand.

It appears Lyle can do that too. Erin was right all along, I just need to “trust her on this”.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Everyone Needs a Person -- A PSA

Not long after we first moved to Waco, Matt, our oldest, made a new friend, a young guy named Brandon. Brandon was a very bright, slight, small fellow. He was kind of geeky like our son, they simply liked the same things. After they got to know we each we learned Brandon had cystic fibrosis, an extremely debilitating and chronic disease that is often fatal to children and adolescents.

I marveled at how Brandon's family handled his illness. They never stopped him from doing anything, they encouraged him to participate in the things he liked and they were almost professional in how they handled the many exacerbations of his illness and his recurrent hospitalizations.

Matt had one severe event which led to him being in the hospital for about two weeks and I didn’t cope with the whole adventure very well.  It worked against my minimalizing skills and like many others, having someone I loved in the hospital was major trauma. I was lucky and had Marty who took care of everything. All I had to do was nod and be present.  When Marty got sick I lost my fall back position.

What I didn't know then and I do know now is you get to the point where your psyche, your emotions, your body can adapt to any situation. Humans are amazing in how we evolve to survive trauma, how we change and adapt to live through major upheaval. You may not like what’s happening, it may be completely foreign and frightening to you but eventually you begin to adapt and understand how to exist in a foreign and frightening world.  That's how hospitals and the medical world were to me, a foreign and frightening land.

With Brandon’s family, with my family -- you begin to know how to live and continue a life while dealing with the trauma of a chronic, debilitating disease. You learn how to work your way through the medical milieu, you learn how to deal and cope with sick, you learn how to hospital. You have to, you have to learn, adapt or be completely miserable.

For me, I found being prepared for the hospital or impromptu trips to the doctor or the emergency room assuaged my misery quotient. For me, I needed to know I had everything organized and I had all of the information I needed at hand to help health providers provide health.

For Marty, and for me, I keep a current list of all her our medications; what they are, the dosage, etc. in my calendar. My children have a copy of my list.  I keep multiple copies of Marty's to leave with the triage nurse, it helps at check-in. I also keep a copy of her power-of-attorney with me. I also keep a one-page document where I have listed all of Marty's diagnoses, her past surgeries, her allergies, her doctors (phone numbers and addresses), and insurance information. In addition, I have copies of the front and back of all of her insurance cards, it makes it easier for the medical administrators and it makes me feel prepared and in charge.  Clearly I have control issues., this is not news to anyone who knows me.

We keep a bag packed for Marty with a change of clothes, various hygiene articles, a scrabble book, and just assorted other niceties. I tried keeping snacks in the bag but I just ate them late at night even when we weren't in the hospital, so I decided that was a bad idea. We keep the bag in the car so if we have to go late at night I pick up my calendar, I pick up a book we have created where we keep all of Marty’s vitals and away we go. The nurses love this information and the nurses are the people who make Marty comfortable so I want to help the nurses. We love nurses.

Marty and I have been married now for 34 years. We were closing on 30 years when Marty had her first stroke. I knew my Marty intimately, better than anyone knew her, I knew everything about her, right? Not really, I promise I paid attention but I didn’t know all of her medicines, I didn’t know when she had various surgeries, I didn’t know all of her drug allergies.

Marty was smart and kept a list of her medications. I found that in her billfold or I would have never known everything she took. I thought I knew her medical history until I tried to remember it. I eventually found all of this on Marty’s computer, it was a great help, once I found it. Don’t make it that hard on your person, make sure they know.

This brings up a key issue. You really need a person. You need a person who knows you, who knows your history, who can come with in 15 pounds of what you weigh and who knows what legal and maybe illegal drugs you take. Find your person, talk to your person, get over the embarrassment and get straight that they are your person and you will count on them to be your person when you are in need.  Maybe you should make it really good person, it helps if you can trust them.

Marty has taught me a lot over the years.  In her illness she has continued to challenge me, in her illness she has continued to educate me, in her illness she has forced me to evolve from the frightened, self-involved man I could be, in her illness we have both evolved and accepted our new life, our new normal.  We are a testament to adaptation and if we can do it, if I can do it,  anyone can do it. You just need to make like a Scout and "be prepared" and get yourself a person.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Healing by Chocolate

I've never seen a grade A Bennie Hinn type miracle healing. Count me a skeptic and as one who thinks Pastor Hinn is a fake and a charlatan who preys on people in their most vulnerable state. I'm not saying miracles don't happen, I'm just saying I haven't seen one, felt one, or touched one; at least until last Saturday when one came really kind of close.

Marty broke her right arm about a month ago when she had an infection induced seizure. It was the first seizure she experienced in about three years but it was bad. Because of inactivity due to her strokes and long term steroid use Marty's bones are much more brittle than normal. When she had the seizure she was in bed at the hospital and the sheer force of the muscles in her arm contracting and releasing caused the compound fracture of the upper part of her right humerus. It was a horrible fracture of her good right arm, the left arm being paralyzed by stroke number two.

Saying the arm hurt then and still hurts is stating the obvious. We are letting the arm heal, but even now, a month later, it is still very painful. Marty never complains about pain, she never complains about anything, but if you move her arm you get, "oh, oh, oh." This means it really hurts. Pain meds help but they dull everything else so much she often chooses to not take the heavier pain medication. She is a better person than I Gunga Din.

Over the last month she has started to try and use the arm a little bit at a time, and I mean a real little bit. It hurts to move it at all and it appears to be pretty weak. She played the piano for about five minutes the other day, she is starting to hold on to the support rail for her bath chair and has started holding a drink with a straw; all awesome and incredibly helpful improvements. She still requires someone to feed her which she doesn’t much like but tolerates as long as you do it the way she wants.

The other night as we were sitting watching TV, one of our caregivers, Erica came in with a Heath chocolate bar, one of Marty's favorites. Marty has a bit of a chocolate problem, she has a sweets issue, and she likes candy. I can identify, even bad chocolate can be a spiritual experience.

Erica broke the bar into three small pieces and gave Marty a small piece in her right hand. Marty's hand was lying on her stomach as she sat in her chair. Marty took the piece looked at it, looked at Erica and then moving her broken right arm up she put the piece to her mouth. Erica and I both sat a bit stunned; we laughed and clapped celebrating one of life's little victories.

The next day Marty and I were sitting outside enjoying the spring with another of our caregivers, Nikkie, and I told her the story of the Heath bar. She laughed and said Marty had been "touched" and I said "Amen it was a miracle; Marty had been touched by the power of chocolate." We all laughed, it's always, always good to laugh.

I'm not saying what happened was a huge big-ass deal miracle. It wasn't. I didn't see Bennie Hinn in his Nehru jacket popping people in the forehead anywhere. Really we didn’t need Bennie, we had Heath and frankly Heath is a lot more credible in my faith journey.