Shannon Ingram's Place

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Location: Orange County/CA

Musings of a woman who left her corporate career to become a caregiver for elderly parents, wrote a book and found her way back to corporate - with love, instead of fear, leading the way. Now working at my Alma Mater, UC Irvine, as Marketing and Communications Director for the School of Biological Sciences.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Melting Down

Mom's ok. Her CT scan yesterday showed that the bleeding in her brain has stopped. If it's still that way today, she may be released tomorrow, hopefully to go home.

Meanwhile, I hit meltdown on Friday afternoon. I don't do "cracking" well, because I think I'm supposed to be very centered and self-actualized, which of course, I will never be. I don't care if you're Ghandi or Mother Theresa, there must be situations or "things" that push even the most "present" human beyond the limits of a wise and calm response.

On Friday, I "popped" like a big, ugly pimple. It happened somewhere in the midst of the hospital nurse calling to say Mom needed a blood transfusion, Bindi peeing, pooping and puking in my office suite, and a friend reminding me I was very late with a loan payment. I simply couldn't take it any more, so I cleaned up Bindi's mess before leaving the office to take her home and go visit Mom at the hospital. I was sobbing in my car when the cell phone rang and it was my dear cousin/best friend, Dru. She knew something was wrong. Long story short, she agreed to meet me at the hospital.

This was a dark day. Dark days happen. Luckily I've only experienced a handful this lifetime. They're scary. When I'm experiencing one, it's like being in a suffocating fog. I take deep breaths between sobs and reach out for someone to talk to, in this case, Dru and my other sweet cousin, Margie (via phone from Connecticut) and as always, my remarkable husband, Gary. They brought me back from the dark side, in simple, baby steps. Margie promised me things would get better. Dru and I talked with Mom at the hospital, then went out afterwards for dinner, which was mostly me crying and Dru supporting a most blessed way. Later, at home, Gary held me and affirmed that love is what gets us through times like these. That's hard to believe when one is depressed, but I believe in Gary and I believe in love and I believed Margie's promise that things will get better.

At the bottom of this well of anxiety and depression is unresolved anger. I'm working on it, as I have been for the past five years, but it's tough because I can't control the circumstances. That's been the big lesson. I can't control anyone but me - seems so easy to say, and so very hard to do. The people who have hurt me and my mom blame our control issues, and to that I say, "Look in the mirror." I am the first person to admit I've had control challenges which are rooted in my childhood with an alcoholic parent.

At church yesterday morning, the choir sang "Let it Be," - perfect song for my circumstances. And that was followed by the soloist singing "A Whole New World," from the movie, "Aladdin." I thought, "OK, Shannon, you can let it be today. And when you feel like it, you can get up and out of this funk that's caused by external pressures and ride the magic carpet of your attitude to a new and better perspective. You do that by focusing on the good things happening in your life instead of the crap. That's the whole new world!"

Shortly after that little epiphany, my friend Terry came over with some great pizza for me to try. We sat on the front porch with Vanna and Bindi and an air force of June bugs, talking about our various challenges. Another neighbor, Signe, walked across the steet and told us about a wonderful event she had attended. When they left, I realized they were the one of the "baby steps" God sent me - friends who appeared to gently coax me further out of that choking fog. I'm grateful.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Mom's Journey Continues

Here I sit in that "Limboland" parking lot outside a trauma center, knowing I have to go inside and face the latest news about my mom. Darling 86 year-old Marianne was home for a week enjoying time with Jack and Bailey the Porkster Poodle, and re-connecting with friends after six weeks of rehab following hip replacement surgery. She was being a good soldier, never moving without her walker, but had two minor falls last week, both while getting out of bed. Two days ago she fell while getting out of bed, injuring the hip that isn't a prosthetic. She was able to pull herself up and didn't tell anyone. This afternoon the home health nurse arrived and GASPED when Mom displayed the hematoma on her "good hip." The nurse called me at work insisting Mom should go to the ER.

Backtrack about 15 hours...a rough night at the Ingram home. Our puppy, Bindi Sue, was spayed on Monday. She came through surgery with flying colors. I took her to work with me yesterday so I could watch her. She was sentenced to wearing one of those god-awful "lampshades" that render paint chips on walls and big bruises on legs. Bindi was ok at first. Then last night she suffered nasty stuff coming out of both ends while in her crate. I was up most of the night doing clean-up for "the baby." After three hours of sleep, I called the vet at 7:30 AM and was told to bring Bindi in immediately.

Thankfully I'd already washed Bindi's hind quarters, hosed down her crate, plus done the laundry, cleaned the cat box, cleaned up the big hairball in the laundry room, placated Vanna Dog with a walk and treats, emptied the diswasher, and washed my hair - so the day started out no more stressful than a category 4 hurricane.

The visit to the animal hospital was a breeze. The vet said Bindi was probably having a bad reaction to her med's. She would require soft food for a few days - and two cans only cost $10. She needed a sponge bath because, in my middle-of-the-night fog, I'd missed washing a couple of spots on her tail and hindquarters. The vet advised me to go to PetCo and get an inflatable collar because it was obvious Bindi hated the "lampshade" and that may have contributed to her nausea. The animal hospital didn't carry soft collars because of the high cost and even higher mark-up. So at 90 minutes into my work day, I was at PetCo buying a fancy blow-up collar for the baby and stressing about all the work I had to do.

When I finally arrived at the office, everything went smoothly. Bindi liked the new soft collar; and she REALLY liked the "Bully Bone" the guy at PetCo recommended. I felt productive and life felt good.

Then the nurse called to say Mom needed urgent care attention. They asked me to tell Mom she had to go to the ER. That wasn't an easy conversation, but Mom understood, the ambulance came and I raced home to drop off Bindi before rushing to the hospital.

The good news: Mom's hip was fine. The bad news - her brain was not. The doc informed us the CT scan showed Mom was suffering bleeding in her brain. BOOM - they called around to find a trauma center that could take her and I had to explain to her that she wasn't going home to Jack and Bailey.

Around 9 PM, Mom was transferred by paramedics to Western Medical Center. Amazingly, the paramedics were the same ones who had brought her to Irvine earlier. She loved seeing them again, even called them by name (so much for short-term memory loss). They told me how beautiful she was - and she was in heaven hearing their compliments.

I couldn't keep up with the ambulance for long. It was flashing lights and sounding the siren. I wasn't about to exceed the speed limit, after a recent citation in San Juan Capistrano that is taking me to traffic school soon.

When I arrived at the trauma center, there were dozens of people in the ER. I saw Mom's favorite EMT's at the ambulance entrance and they told me where she was, which helped me get inside quickly. When I said "Bed 9," the security guard gave me a nametag and took me right to her. About five minutes after I sat down in the comfiest chair I've ever encountered in a hospital, a young man with a badge said he was moving Mom to ICU. Good-bye comfy chair. A nurse accompanied us and when we reached the end of one of those long, super white hospital hallways, I was told to go into the waiting room and someone would come and get me later. Mom blew me a kiss. I watched an entire rerun episode of "Grey's Anatomy" while sitting in a very uncomfortable chair.

At last a nurse in a bright flowery shirt came out and called my name. She led me to the bed and asked a bunch of quetions - the same ones I've answered dozens of times over the past five years. She took me inside the ICU to Mom's bed.

Mom has been a trooper this evening. She talked about the challenge of staying on her feet. She reminded me she wanted to be cremated. She said she tried to get a sip of Jack's scotch before the paramedis wheeled her out of the apartment, but Saint Norma the Caregiver said "NO!" She said she wanted Bailey at her memorial service. We cried together. We laughed out loud. She hated the potassium drip through her IV because it was hurting, and told the nurse to go ahead and cut off her arm. We laughed some more. I read her snippets from PEOPLE Magazine and she said she "might like to see" the movie Get Smart before she leaves the planet because she loved the TV series.

I wolfed down a Whopper Junior burger and a Diet Coke just now, when I should be home in bed. Gary and I have been in constant contact and he says she'll be ok....again. I called my brother's cell phone number and left a message that Mom was asking for him.

Richard the nurse told me that Mom will be in ICU "at least until Monday" so the neurosurgery team can get her stabilized - or understand more about what's going on. They'll let me know tomorrow. The neurosurgeon says Mom has no obvious neurological disorders (I could have told them that - she's an Energizer Bunny), but he needs to stabilize her. My guess is that she will off blood thinners for the rest of her life, heralding a different set of challenges.

I'll go and kiss Mom good night. Earlier she said, "You need to go home and get some rest before work tomorrow." She added, "And be sure to have a glass of wine for me." She and I can still laugh...and that's good medicine!

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Heat Goes On...

Grandson Keegan was thrilled to go on a "big boat" recently during the Newport Harbor Yacht Club opening day weekend. Our friends, Barry and Tim, own a boat together and were working on it in preparation for the big opening day inspection. Their wives, Laurie and Leslie, were shopping that day. Keegan got to explore the boat and even went down a hatch on the bow. He wore his big boy Spooner shirt, as you can see from the picture here, and looked very "Newport."

It's hot-hot-hot in Southern California and I have created a great new cocktail to enjoy after work. I'm calling it a Green Tea Splasher. I love green tea drinks, especially the diet versions. So the other night I took a tumbler and loaded it with ice, squeezed in the juice of a quarter of a lime (scrub the skin of the lime first so you can put the whole thing into the drink), added a jigger of rum and then equal parts green tea and club soda. YUMMY!

Mom is finally home in her new bed and Gary is building a step so that Bailey (the Pavarotti of Poodles) can get up onto it with her. Bailey now weighs about 15 pounds and is supposed to weigh six to eight. I'm ready to take him back to the vet for a weeklong stay in "weight rehab" because Mom and Jack just can't seem to figure out that he shouldn't eat bacon, donuts and sugar cookies. That being said, he is their "sweet baby" and taking him away from them is just another form of torture. Saint Norma the Caregiver has lost 15 pouunds since Mom went into the hospital. I've asked her to consider the same kind of diet for Bailey and she said she would try to regulate his food intake.

We are still having our challenges in the realm of finances, but we intend to get everything handled soon. "Pain at the pump" has been excruciating. No vacations this year, and lots of dining in. Yet we are blessed to live in a lovely town, have jobs we enjoy, good friends, pretty decent health, and pets to make us laugh every day. Have a great weekend!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Home to Friends and Family

All of the new networking opportunities such as Facebook and LinkedIn offer such great ways to keep in touch with old friends, but at the same time, when one is encumbered with family issues and crises, it's hard to simply let everyone know how much I appreciate them. So this is it: I LOVE YOU ALL....I APPRECIATE YOU.....I CARE ABOUT YOU AND AM GRATEFUL YOU ARE IN MY LIFE!!!!! This is the total, consummate truth for me. Email me and I'll respond!

Mom goes home to her assisted living community tomorrow. This is a miracle. Recently I heard that 25% of the people who suffer a hip fracture at age 65 or above die within six months of the fracture. My mom fell and broke her hip on May 7th. She has been a trooper. The first couple of weeks were horrible because she was in so much pain and she was also on pain medication. She's been weaned off the med's and she's been a good soldier about her physical therapy. Mom has been supported by family and friends who cared to go and see her - my husband, Gary; her best friend, Ellie and Ellie's daughter - who is one of my best friends - Laurie; Mom's brother Cy (aka Dick), and his daughter, Janet; niece Jill and her husband Mike, niece Margie and son Christopher; my brother, John; "Saint Norma" our caregiver, her son, Francisco, and finally my dad, Jack. Mom is in the 75% who survive hip fracture and get to go home - primarily because of her connection with family and friends.

Amazingly, Mom's newest friends had the most profound impact on her recovery. NEVER underestimate the POWER of a new friend. At Tustin Rehab, Mom's wonderful roommate, Mary Ellen, helped her to think about all the good things to be enjoyed in life right now, such as her grandchildren, her dog, and the taste of chocolate. Together they thought of better stuff to eat than what was on the menu, and had no trouble requesting better things to eat. I loved arriving in the afternoon to find them engaged in conversation while enjoying vanilla ice cream, chocolate chip cookies or frozen yogurt.

In Santa Ana at Care House's "Express Recovery" unit, Mom embraced her physical therapy and honed her cognitive skills talking about life and everything on TV with her new roommate, Rebecca. Initially Mom was upset being in Rebecca's room because Mom feared Rebecca might be dying. Amazingly, both Mom and Rebecca had the same doctor, and even the same appointment at the doc's office 10 miles away. They became fast friends as each discussed their options with the doctor. I was there that day and I was incredulous when Rebecca entered the doc's office with her daughter, Karla, who was wearing a blouse I almost wore to work that morning! Needless to say, Rebecca, Karla, Mom and I will share a bond forever. As Mom and Rebecca enjoy their "roommate friendship," Karla and I are planning a luncheon with our mothers, sure to happen very soon because Rebecca is also "getting out" this week. Thank you to Care House for sincere support and recovery!

Life always brings many challenges and opportunities. Smile. Enjoy. Pick up the pieces. Extend your hand to a stranger. It's all over so soon; why not have some fun while you can?

I'm very happy that my mom is going home to her husband and her dog. And I'm delighted that first roommate Mary Ellen and second roommate, Becky, are going home too. Life is good.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

WOW...It's been over a Month!

Hello Everyone! I've been working at Silverado Senior Living for over two months and my life is incredibly full, leaving little time to blog. For starters, along with a new job, caring for Mom while she recovers from hip surgery at a skilled nursing facility and for my stepdad, Jack, who is on hospice at home (although doing remarkably well now) keeps me busy for about 17 hours a day. Then there's Bindi Sue, our puppy (pictured here), who keeps me laughing! She spends her day with Gary and I take Vanna dog to work with me. And I'm still serving on the Board of WomanSage, a wonderful organization (see link on my web site) for women at mid-life. I had the pleasure of coordinating the WomanSage spring luncheon in May where I met one of my favorite authors, Joan Anderson, who wrote the best-selling memoir, A Year by the Sea. She spoke at the luncheon and I was totally captivated! With luck, I will someday get to attend one of her retreats at Cape Cod.

Spent a week in Orlando at the annual conference of ALFA - Assisted Living Federation of America and heard two fantastic speakers there - William "Skip" Miller who has written some excellent books about sales (my favorite is Proactive Sales Management) and Chip Bell, an expert in customer service. Loved every minute of the conference and can't say I've ever said that about any of the gazillion conferences I've attended in the past.

Congratulations to Jenna and Phil Palisoul who were married in May. Their wedding was a spring highlight for Gary and me because we partied at the Newport Harbor Yacht Club with Jenna's parents, Laurie and Barry Booth, and our other good friends, the Towersey's and Coluccio's. Ya gotta love a wedding reception where you walk in and are immediately served mai tais instead of champagne!

My favorite movie so far this year is Sex & the City. I think I watched one or two episodes of the TV series and thought I might not like the film. I went with six other women and we started with cosmos beforehand, then ooooohed, ahhhhhed, laughed, cried through the movie and clapped at the end. Afterwards, more cosmos. What can I say? The word of the week is "Dante." If you've seen the movie, you know why.

Check out Silverado's "new" web site:
It's an excellent resource for anyone dealing with a loved one who has memory impairments.

Gotta's Taco Tuesday at Las Golondrinas here in our office complex. Tacos beckon.