Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Spring Had Arrived - by Mike Sands

SPRING has arrived, but I’m going to talk about FALL. by Mike Sands

Everyone has fallen in their life, even the most co-ordinated.  We have tripped, stumbled and bowled ourselves over.  Then we get up, brush ourselves off and proceed on our merry way.  One time a receptionist/nurse rushed into the doctor’s room and said, ‘’Doctor, the man you just treated walked out the door fell and collapsed on the front steps.  What should I do?’’  ‘’Turn him around’’, said the doctor.  ‘’So it looks like he was just coming in.’’  It is our natural instinct to laugh, or at least chuckle under our breath, at anyone taking an unforeseen spill.   We can’t help laughing, it’s funny. We may say after, ‘’I’m not laughing at you, I’m laughing with you’’, or something to that affect, so the person won’t get annoyed at us.  Charlie Chaplin honed in on this natural folly of ours and cashed in on it.  Everyone has seen at least one of Chaplin’s flicks that depict him taking a tumble.  One Chaplin short I remember had Chaplin walking down the road looking at everything and everyone EXCEPT the road in front of him.  The camera then focused in on a banana peel in the near distance.  The viewer was on the edge of his seat to see what he knew was upcoming.  But Chaplin, the clever artist that he was, threw a wrench in the script.  Just as he was about to step on the peel, he noticed it and took a step to the left of it—right into a manhole.  He kept the element of surprise with an old gag, and still got a laugh.

The banana peel joke has been around since the early days of vaudeville, but the use of the banana peel as an injurious prop has its roots in reality.  In the early 20th century, refrigeration and shipping speed made the banana the most popular fruit in the country.  And in the age of anti-littering laws, the banana was eaten and the peel discarded wherever the eater was.  The peels rotted and became quite slippery and thus dangerous to tread on.  Banana peels were in fact responsible for a lot of accidents and injuries.  The problem was so bad that urban sanitation systems were set up solely to combat the problem with the peel.  ‘’HORSE SHIT’’ you say.  Well yes, that too was a factor in urban sanitation systems being created in that era, but we’ll stick to the peel for now.

With the onset of ALS comes many problems.  One of them is falling down.  ALS attacks the muscle groups of the body.  Over 300 muscles in your body work to allow you to stand and walk.  With the weakening of these muscles, coupled with balance issues, falls are inevitable.  I’ve had my share of falls.  My most recent fall was three days ago.  I was standing by the front door, minding my own business, and I lost my balance and fell into the door.  With ALS you can’t catch yourself because your arms are too weak.  So into the door I fell.  My luck, there was a nail in it to hold a wreath and you guessed it, I hit the nail on the head (or is that the head on the nail).(see photo below.)  I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I am going to fall, but I’m not going to take it lying down—sort of, because as Confucius say, ‘’it’s not the failure to fall down, but the refusal to get back up.’
                                                                                                           I NAILED it, alright!!

                                                                           Other falls:
     Now I’m not making a mountain out of a molehill, but this slope on the grass caused me to fall.

                 No, this is not the wicked witch of the east under Dorothy’s house, its me.

                                                                           I didn’t fall IN the tub, I fell INTO the tub

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

We Needed a Good Laugh

I guess you could say yesterday was a bit of a sombre day for us. It was just one of those days…no reason in particular. There wasn’t much joking, there wasn’t much laughing.

It was a long day and Mike and I were really tired, but I decided to quickly check my email before we went to bed. I had a few messages including one from Neil (the new friend we talked about in a recent blog post, A Festivas Miracle!). Mike was sitting beside me and we both read Neil’s email together and had a great laugh. We laughed out loud and it was a wonderful way to end the day.
Here is what Neil said regarding my last post, Granddad Needs a Band-Aid:

Hey Friends,
Saw your latest blog about the falls Mike has taken and guess what brother and sister, I ‘m with you! Heehheee! On our way to California on the way to supper from our hotel, I took a fall and scraped my arm as Donna was valiantly trying to hold onto me (good luck on that, have you seen me?) But alas, down I went like I was shot. Then in the room itself I tripped and smacked into the wall, but as always, my head broke the fall. Then, oh yes there’s more! When Donna and I were in San Diego today we wanted to tour the aircraft carrier (my desire seeing as my father served on one in the British Navy) and I was doing great I tell ya and Donna, yes I tell you this is her fault, she says, “Hey, let’s see what’s in here.” “Okay.” I say and as we go in, Donna first leading the way, I lost my footing going over the high threshold and lost my grip on the door jamb and down I go flat on my back but---my head cushioned the fall so no harm, no foul. Now, I’m just nursing my wounds with rum and coke…makes for ease of pain. That’s my story guys, no Dora band aids. I’m sure it would make the healing go faster, but what I find is there’s no sin in falling down, it’s not getting back up even if it takes a while, right Mike?

Take care my friends love you lots, Neil and Donna

His message not only made us laugh a lot, but it was comforting to know someone could relate to what we are going through. It’s not a case of misery loves company, but it’s great for Mike to know he isn’t the only one trying to stay up right.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Granddad Needs a Band-Aid

Mike has had a few falls recently. Thankfully none of them have been very serious. He had one fall coming out of the garage where he rides his stationary bike. I had just opened the back door to go see if he needed any help and I saw him go down. I didn’t really see him go down, I just saw his feet sticking out of the garage door.

He also had a fall in the bathroom not long ago. I heard a bang and a crash in the bathroom and ran to find Mike lying on the floor. He was crying this time, so I thought he had hurt himself. I asked him where it hurt and he said he was fine. I joined him on the floor and we both had a good cry. I later told Mike it was okay to have a good cry about it now and then...he always keeps his chin up and I wanted to give him ‘permission’ to let his chin down.
The most recent fall happened on Easter day. All the kids were home and our granddaughter, Leah was here too. I was upstairs and aware that Mike had finished his bike ride. I was just changing quickly and planned to head right out to the garage to offer Mike some help into the house. Instead of waiting for me, he decided to come in on his own. Normally, that’s okay, but the back gate was closed, so Mike thought he would walk around to the front and was going to cross the front yard and go in the front door. But our front yard is raised slightly and as Mike tried to come up the slope, he lost his balance and fell. I could hear him yell as I was just coming down from upstairs. We all ran out to where Mike was lying on the driveway. He assured us that he was okay and Nathan and I helped him up.

Mike had some scratches on his back and his elbow was bleeding. Leah was very concerned about Granddad’s elbow and insisted that we get a band-aid for him right away. We told Leah that Granddad needed to clean his wound first and then she could put a band-aid on his elbow.
Mike made his way up the stairs to have a shower and I followed him. As we slowly climbed, we listened to Leah express her concern for Granddad. She kept telling her dad that Granddad fell off his bike and needed a band-aid. (It was easier to agree that he fell off his bike than explain that he fell while walking across the front yard)

Throughout the day, Leah kept saying to Mike, “You fell off your bike?” She told Mike that she fell off her new bike and she kept pulling up her pant leg to show Mike the band-aid that covered the sore on her knee. She looked at him with an empathetic look. She knew what it felt like to fall off a bike…it’s really scary and it hurts.
Leah wasn’t quite two when Mike was diagnosed. She is now three and has observed Mike’s health decline over the past year. She knows something is up, but of course can’t remember the big announcement that Granddad has ALS. She never asks about it, she just adjusts to the changes that are happening to Granddad.

He loved picking her up and carrying her around the yard and playing with her. Throwing her up in the air and catching her, holding her on his lap and other things that granddads love to do with their grandchildren.  Unfortunately, Mike can’t do those things any more.
Leah doesn’t ask Granddad to pick her up because she knows he can’t, instead, she climbs up on the couch beside him and then steps over his legs with one foot and sits down on his lap.

She knows Granddad needs help, but never asks why. She waits patiently for us to get him ready to go to the park or to the rink or wherever it is we are going.
A few weeks ago, we were heading out and I helped Mike on with his sweat shirt. Mike said he should go to the bathroom before we left. He slowly made his way to the bathroom. Nathan and I waited at the front door and Leah followed Granddad. She noticed that his sweat shirt was folded up a bit at the back. She stopped him and with her little hand she gently pulled his sweat shirt down. I will never forget those little red fingernails on her little helpful hand as she patted the back of Mike’s sweat shirt so it would lay flat.

It’s interesting and inspiring to watch Leah handle the changes that are happening to her Granddad. She has a certain understanding and a peace about it. There are lessons to be learned from this special little three year old.
Granddad needs a band-aid

Leah putting a band-aid on granddad's elbow

A 'Dora' band-aid for Granddad

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

A Fesivas Miracle Update

Since posting my last blog, A Festivas Miracle, we received an email from Neil. This is what he said:

Mike said that he and Neil chatted about Seinfeld when they were here…I'm sorry I missed that conversation.

Also, our brother in law, Gary sent a message to Mike on Facebook today. He said “Your recent blog inspired me to make a donation to the Human Fund in your name.”

I sign off with a final thought: From now on, when you take a chip – just take one dip and end it! And some wise words from Eric the clown to George: You're livin' in the past, man! You're hung up on some clown from the sixties, man!

Monday, 9 April 2012

A Festavas Miracle!

Mike and the kids and I, speak a second language. Even though our children speak some French (Erin being fluent in French), that's not the language I'm talking about. I'm talking about “Sein” language. We are all huge fans of the TV show, Seinfeld. I have been watching since the show premiered July 5th, 1989. Week after week, for 11 years I looked forward to curling up on the couch on Thursday nights to see what Jerry, George, Elaina and Kramer were up to. Mike soon caught on and same with the kids (re-runs). It doesn't matter how many times you see an episode, it's just as funny or funnier the second, third or fifth time.

Most everything in life can be related to a Seinfeld episode. For instance, the other day, Erin went to the doctor and he referred her to a dermatologist. I said to her that I would like to go to a dermatologist to have some of my moles looked at. Erin replied, “You could pull an 'Elaine' and come to my appointment with me.” She was referring to the episode where Elaine's doctor notes in her file that she is 'difficult'. The news quickly spreads amongst the doctors of New York and none of the doctor in New York City will see her, so she goes to the doctor with Uncle Leo and pretends to be his personal nurse. She tries to tell the doctor about Uncle Leo's ailment (really her ailment) in order to get the prescription she needs.
I thought about the episode where Jerry dates a Dermatologist and foolishly says she isn't a real doctor because she doesn`t save lives…he forgot about skin cancer.

Recently, I peeled an orange and it was rotten. Mike says, “Fruits a gamble”.  Nathan was telling about a really great parking spot he got. He said he got a George Castansa spot. Then he said, “I hope no one jumps out the window and lands on my car.” Madison was in the washroom today and I just needed a little bit of toilet paper to wipe my nose. Madison says, “I can't spare a square.” I said, “Just a ply…all I need is a ply.”
When we witness an embarrassing situation (someone else's embarrassing situation), we say “That's a shame.” Other expressions include: “Pretty boy Jerry”. “And you want to be my latex salesman.” “Are you down?” ”I'm down.” “You know this is my busy time of year.” “PLEEEASE…PLEEEASE.” “Serenity now!” “GETT OUTT” “You're way off, waaay off”

Anyway, I have been thinking about one episode in particular lately. It's the episode where a beautiful woman mistakes George for her boyfriend. She says George looks just like her boyfriend, Neil. George, having a hard time believing a gorgeous woman like her would have a boyfriend that looks like him, becomes intrigued and wants to know more about Neil. He asks lots of questions about Neil and becomes fixated on Neil, losing his chance with the girl.
The reason I have been thinking about this episode lately is because Mike and I have a new friend named Neil and we have become a little intrigued with “our” Neil. Neil first contacted me on Facebook and asked if I was the one who had the als with courage blog…if I was the one with the husband who had ALS. He explained that he had PLS (Primary Lateral Sclerosis) an illness closely related to ALS and had many of the same symptoms Mike had. We started communicating via email and I quickly learned that Neil is a lot like Mike. He has a very positive attitude, he has a great sense of humour and he has a strong faith in God.

Neil has been very encouraging and helpful. He has also been very informative. He told us about a medication that has helped him with his muscle twitching (fasciculation). The next time we saw Mike’s specialist, we requested the medication. We have always called it ‘Neil’s pill’.
We have been communicating with Neil since November, but just met him and his wife Donna, who live on Vancouver Island, last Thursday. Neil emailed us quite some time ago to let us know they would be in town for Neil's neurologist appointment at GF Strong on April 5th. Mike and I were so excited that they were coming. They came to our house after the appointment for our first face to face visit. We all agreed that it was like getting together with old friends.

When Neil told us they were coming, he said we would have some laughs at his and Mike’s expense…and that we did. Neil told us of the time he fell and broke three ribs (that’s not the funny part). We laughed when he told us he called Donna at work and told her not to worry, that the ambulance was on its way. We compared stories and had a great time…a few sombre moments too and we prayed. We had a wonderful time together and then they were off. For the Seinfeld fans, it was a festavas miracle! For the rest of us, their visit was a huge blessing!
                                                             Donna, Neil, me and Mike