Blizzard of 1978

January 26, 1978 – 10 a.m.

I turned on the TV and watched the weather prediction. They told us to brace ourselves for a terrible storm that was coming with high winds. We usually only get 10-15 inches of snow all winter, so this was very unusual. I have never seen a blizzard. It’s about 50 degrees Fahrenheit right now. The wind began to pick up, the snow began to fall, and the temperature plunged.

The phone rang and I answered it. My nursing supervisor, Marie said, “Pam, pack a bag to prepare to stay overnight at the hospital. The National Guard will be at your house in 30 minutes to bring you in for the evening shift tonight.” I quickly packed a couple extra uniforms, toiletries, and my Bible, and watched out my front window. When I saw a 4 wheel drive Jeep pull up, I put on my warmest hooded coat and ventured out. I had to lean into the wind,because it was so difficult to walk. I climbed in the back seat and said hello to the driver and three other nurses he had already picked up.

We drove slowly through the deepening snow on the deserted streets and arrived safely at the hospital five miles away. I took report from day shift and began my evening rounds. My head nurse, Mrs. H. and I were the only staff that made it in for evening shift. Thankfully, they had cancelled all routine surgeries, but all our 30 beds were occupied. There was a friendly air of comradery with all the patients that night. Those who were there for their week of diabetes classes helped us pass dinner trays to the patients who were bedbound.

I went down to the cafeteria for dinner, and was amazed to have the hospital administrator serve us our food on the tray line. He smiled and thanked me for working through the blizzard. No charge for dinner tonight!

The Guard brought in the night shift nurse and aide, so I was thankful to sign off at 11:30. Marie told us there were some empty patient rooms on the 9th floor, and to pick whichever one I wanted. I grabbed my bag, found an empty room, and closed the door. I turned on the TV and watched the blizzard. I watched the unbelievable pictures of 15 foot snowdrifts from the high winds of 69 miles per hour. The roads were nearly impassable and the temperature had dropped to -30 degrees Fahrenheit. I could hear the howling wind as I looked through the window and watched the snow blow sideways in the dim street light. It was nearly a whiteout!

I put on my pajamas and climbed into bed. I had never been a patient in a hospital, so this was a very strange experience. I was too wound up to sleep. Then I heard a patient in the next room start to scream. I lay awake and prayed.

The alarm went off at 6 a.m. I guess I dozed off at some point. I got dressed, read my Bible, and committed the day to the Lord. I went out to the nurses’ station and asked my nurse friends about the patient next to me. They said he was an alcoholic going through withdrawal. They had to put his arms and legs in leather restraints, but he broke out of the restraints and nearly destroyed the room. Finally the medications took effect and he slept.

I went down to the cafeteria and ate my free breakfast and then went back to the fifth floor. I was totally exhausted from little sleep and asked the Lord to give me strength for the day and to bring in the evening shift. Mrs. H and I were the only staff again so we split the floor in half. After we passed the medications and trays, we began the bed baths. We were running out of linens so we only changed the patient’s gown and sheets if they looked soiled. I was so happy when the evening shift arrived courtesy of the National Guard! I gave report, and then found a coworker who lived near me and volunteered to give me a ride home.

I could barely get in my front door from the drifts. My roommate, Jane, had shoveled out as much as she could. We looked at our cars that were buried in the parking lot and decided to wait until the next day to shovel them out since we were both off of work.

My car was buried after the Blizzard of 1978!

My car was buried after the Blizzard of 1978!

I fell into bed after a quick supper, thanked the Lord for carrying me safely through the blizzard, and fell into a deep sleep.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Psalm 46:1

 

Reflection

That was the only time that I  needed the National Guard to bring me to work. Sadly, 51 people died in my state in the blizzard of 1978; 22 died when they left their trapped car and froze to death while trying to get to cover.  But I still remember the comradery of the staff and patients as we all helped each other through that terrible storm.

I survived several more blizzards during the years I lived in New England. Later in the blog, I will share some of my harrowing tales of reaching my patients in the community as a visiting nurse.

 

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Lord, Be My Vision

January 18, 2006

I’m having trouble with my eyesight again. I pulled out my pocket eye card and could only see 20/200 with my left eye and my glasses on. This means I have to be at 20 feet to see what most people can see at 200 feet. My right eye is better at 20/25. Through all of this, I want to rest in the Lord. He knows all about my eyes and is in control. If I go blind like my uncle, God will continue to provide for me like He always has through the years. I am so glad that He goes before me.

January 27, 2006

The retinal specialist said my eye looked healthy on the inside, so he is not sure why my vision has decreased so much. He decided to review my head scan from a year ago when I fell and was unconscious for awhile. He also is sending me for a second opinion to another retinal specialist.

February 11, 2006

I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will guide you with My eye. Psalm 32:8

I saw Dr. N. yesterday for the second opinion and he said I have a cataract. He did a test on me where I looked through a pinhole and could see 20/20 which confirms it! This means the lens in my eye has become cloudy over the years. It’s a relatively easy outpatient surgery to remove my lens and place a new one in my eye which should give me 20/20 vision so I no longer need to wear glasses! I can hardly believe this news. I have worn thick glasses since I was 6 years old and have uncorrected vision of 20/1000.

April 8, 2006

Beloved, now are we the children of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. I John 3:2

I had my left cataract removed two days ago. I returned to the eye doctor’s office yesterday to have my patch removed. It was an amazing experience as the whole world appears so bright with beautiful colors, and I can see 20/20! Dr. E. said my vision might not stay quite 20/20 after the lens settles in. I can hardly believe the difference in all the colors. It’s like the yellow haze was removed. I think it’s a little taste of how beautiful everything will appear in heaven when I see the Lord and have my new body. Even so, COME, Lord Jesus!”  Revelation 22:20

April 20, 2006

So much has changed since I last wrote. I’m having a terrible time with nausea and headaches because I see two different sizes with each eye. I wear a contact lens in my right eye that still has the cataract. My brain is having a hard time adjusting to 20/20 vision in my newly implanted lens. Then I got a head cold and was so sick that I missed all the Easter services which was sad. This is my third week off of work, so my Dad flew up from Florida to help me out. Dr. E. is on vacation so I saw his partner who told me to patch my right eye and learn to drive and work with one eye. He also said to call Dr. E. to do the other eye as soon as possible.

I drove down the highway with one eye patched which was really scary since I have no depth perception. I asked my Dad to drive home which was just as scary. He has a shuffling gait and can’t remember directions at all. His hearing has also decreased. I think he has early dementia or Parkinson’s disease which is so sad. (See previous post.) He went with me to prayer meeting last night for which I was thankful. On the way home, the stars and glare around all the oncoming headlights was awful. I wonder if I will be able to drive at night anymore? Maybe that will go away once I’m off all the eye drops. I called Human Resources at work to check on short term disability, but they said I don’t have it since I haven’t worked there a year yet. God always provides and won’t test me above what I can bear.

It was difficult to drive with only one eye because I had no depth perception.

I’m thankful for this extra time with my Dad as we look at the beautiful spring flowers in bloom, walk through the woods together, and see historic sites nearby.

My Dad came to help me for 3 weeks. We enjoyed seeing all the spring flowers in bloom.

May 9, 2006

The Lord upholds all who fall, and raises up all who are bowed down. Psalm 145:14

How I praise God for the work He has done in my life the past few weeks. Dr. E. removed my right cataract on May 4, four weeks after my left cataract was removed. The next day after the patch was removed, my eyes began working together. We also stopped the Nevanac (NSAID) eye drop which was causing the nausea. What a relief to be rid of the nausea! It was such a joy to rejoin the choir yesterday at church and sing The Solid Rock.

When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace;

In every high and stormy gale, My anchor holds within the veil.

On Christ, the solid Rock I stand – all other ground is sinking sand,

All other ground is sinking sand.    –by Edward Mote

Christ is my solid Rock!

Reflection

How I thank God every day for giving me corrected unclouded vision. I later was told I developed cataracts at the age of 51 because I have a disorder which caused calcium deposits to cloud my lenses.  I still need to wear thin glasses to read to correct my astigmatism. One of the unexpected treats is to be able to see clearly when I go swimming. I can still drive at night as the glare and stars around all the headlights went away once I finished the eye drops. But most of all, I look forward to that day when I will see my dear Savior face to face in heaven above with perfect vision in my new body.

 

 

 

The Aging Brain

September, 2005 – Geriatric Nurse Practitioner

I am enjoying my new job immensely working as a geriatric Nurse Practitioner in a 500 bed nursing home providing primary care to 64 patients currently. It is like a breath of fresh air compared to working for the insurance company in the same facility. I am also feeling much better physically since I only work four days per week again and have every Friday off. I volunteered to work the late shift so my hours are 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. The rest of the providers leave between 4 and 5 p.m. so I cover the entire home for emergencies until the night shift doctor arrives at 6 p.m. I like these hours better because I don’t need to get up as early, avoid driving in rush hour , eat lunch and dinner in the cafeteria, and get out in time to attend evening activities at my church. The food in the cafeteria is healthy and inexpensive so it also cuts down on my grocery bills.

I cover one dementia unit, and two long-term care units that are not locked. I share an office with three other nurse practitioners which works well. It’s nice to be able to discuss our most difficult patients and get input from others with more experience. I also like the dictation which is much easier than typing into the insurance company laptop. They have live transcriptionists that type our notes and put them in the cue for us to proofread and correct any mistakes before it goes into the electronic record permanently. In general, the typists are very accurate. The nursing home is so large that it also has a small restaurant, gift shop, auditorium for programs, board room, and beautiful grounds for walking at lunch time on good weather days. They have monthly continuing education for all the providers which is also helpful. I work with three different physicians and they are all enjoy sharing their expertise with me.

Dr. R., the medical director, meets with each provider privately once a month to review our productivity goals and discuss any concerns we may have. He is the kindest and best boss I have ever had. This preventive type management style works so much better than the authoritarian critical style I have had for much of my career. So far, he said I’m doing a good job and meeting all my monthly goals. How I thank God for giving me this job and giving me this schedule.

“Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:20

The Aging Brain

One of the benefits of this job is that they give me 4 days per year and $1200 annually to attend continuing education outside of the facility. I attended a seminar yesterday entitled “The Aging Brain” that was very interesting taught by a geriatrician. The research shows that people who keep their brains active, exercise, socialize, and eat a healthy diet helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease (memory loss). Since my grandmother died of Alzheimer’s, this is of particular interest to me. Daily, I sadly witness the decline of my patients with end stage dementia.

Ways to keep one’s brain active is to travel because you are constantly problem solving and meeting new people. Learning a new language, playing a musical instrument, teaching, doing aerobic exercise, and working jigsaw or crossword puzzles stimulates the brain. If a person lives alone, it’s also important to participate in regular social activities so as not to isolate. Eating healthy foods like blueberries, salmon, sweet potatoes, and other colorful fruits and vegetables is important.

Eating healthy foods like blueberries is good for your brain.

 

Solving puzzles stimulates brain function.

 

Traveling and using other languages is great brain stimulation!

After hearing this seminar, I will definitely continue to travel, keep up with my painting, and try and play my violin more often. I’m glad I see my friends at church several times weekly. Since I live alone, guarding against isolation is my biggest challenge.

Reflection

I continued to work in geriatrics the remainder of my career and witnessed the use of Aricept and Namenda, two medications which slow down the progression of dementia. When I was a home care Nurse Practitioner for the federal government, I took care of our veterans who had early dementia and were being managed by their family members at home. I had many conversations with the caregivers who were usually a spouse or adult child about keeping the veteran safe at home as long as possible while preventing caregiver burnout. I guided them in making the difficult decision of when to place the person on home hospice, when to hire help, or when it was best to transfer the patient to a nursing home for 24 hour care.

Frequently I took young physicians with me on my visits. One doctor from India told me that there is no Alzheimer’s disease in India and people live long lives. I asked her how that can be? She attributes it to the daily consumption of curry in their foods. The main spice in curry is turmeric. So I began taking a turmeric capsule daily and adding curry powder to my vegetable juice every morning. .

When my dear Dad came to help me after I had surgery, I noticed that he was having trouble remembering things and driving me to appointments. I asked him if he was willing to go to the geriatric assessment center where I worked and have his memory checked? He willingly agreed since he recalled how his mother died of dementia, and he had to place her in a nursing home the last year of her life. Dr. R. , my boss and the director of the geriatric assessment center, did a full 4 hour assessment with the team including a CT scan of my Dad’s brain. Since my dad was an inventor and probably at the genius level, Dr. R. said it was difficult to assess his memory because he was so good at covering up his memory deficits. Their conclusion was that Dad had Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) which means it could stay at that level or progress to dementia. Dr. R. did not recommend starting my Dad on Aricept or Namenda as they were not recommended to prevent dementia.

It was sad to see my brilliant Dad slowly decline from dementia. He had 19 patents in paper products at the conclusion of his career.

As the years progressed, my dad did progress to dementia, had to stop driving, and moved to a retirement center with his wife to be closer to my sister. As Nancy Reagan said about President Reagan after he was diagnosed with dementia, “It’s the long good-bye.” My stepmother became his caregiver. Sometimes he wandered around the large building or got lost walking to the dining room. He stopped reading and slept most of the day. He needed a home health aide to help him with his shower. After his wife broke her hip and had to go to rehab, Dad also had to be transferred to the nursing home. He began having trouble swallowing which is common with dementia patients, and food went into his lungs and caused pneumonia. He died quietly alone in the nursing home from pneumonia at the age of 89, nine years after he was diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment. It was sad to see such a brilliant man slowly lose his mental capacities.

That is why it is so important, dear Reader, to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior now, while you still have your mental capacities. No one knows how many days he has left here on earth. The 29 year old son of one of my doctors suddenly passed on last week. Thankfully, he had received Christ as his Savior and is now rejoicing in God’s presence.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. John 3:16-17

For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7