Category Archives: A-Fib

A Catholic Priest has Extraordinary Powers–He Has Been Given the Power of Christ Himself

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

Recently I wrote about how being a Catholic caregiver gives that person an “edge”. I had no idea that  only a day later I would be standing next to an unconscious body that was being kept alive through the use of mechanical means and medications. Somewhere inside that body was my wife, Marty. She was on “life-support”and my work as a caregiver was either on hold or would soon be ended.

Since early in 2011 Marty has had serious medical issues such as lymphoma and Alzheiemr’s Disease. But entering the year 2017 things began spiraling downward. The Alzheimer’s was markedly advanced and was even affecting her walking. Several times, she even forgot who I was. One day a week or so ago, I wanted to give her her afternoon meds. She refused to take them. She said she could not let a stranger give her poison. I was accustomed to her unpredictability but this was a first. I was stunned..

As weird as this may seem, I actually had a close friend, Geri, come over to “identify” me to Marty. My wife was unflappable and refused to give in. After about a half-hour of cajoling by Geri she finally, yet haltingly, relented. She gave in and took her pills.

Last Thursday, Marty spent most of the day sleeping. She ate nothing. I attributed it to new meds she had been prescribed. Friday the sleeping intensified and again she did not eat. Saturday was worse and late in the afternoon, when I checked here vitals, her oxygen level was at 82. I knew that was not good. I called 911.

Anointing of the Sick (Extreme Unction) en.wikipedia.com

The paramedics oxygenated her and took her to the ER. She was freezing cold and they discovered her core temperature was down to 93 degrees. Sepsis was suspected and later on validated. I had gone home because it was to be several more hours before a room opened up. I called in at 4 a.m. I was told that she was in CVICU and on “life-support”. She had become “unresponsive” and needed to be intubated.  I was shocked to hear this.

To the point of this article. Through my jumbled thoughts one thought was crystal clear. Call the priest. I immediately did. I had instinctively reached out and taken advantage of my Catholic “edge”. I am telling you, it felt good to make that phone call. I knew help was on the way—help for the spiritual side of my wife.

Fifteen minutes later I was at the hospital in the ICU unit,  standing next to my wife who was in her “life-support” bed. All the machines, tubes and hoses made the scene appear to be part of a science fiction movie.  The beeping and ticking was almost like the background for reggae music. All of this was supposed to help her get well. She was sedated and had no clue as to what was going on.

Shortly after,  Father Anthony Coppola, my pastor from Sacred Heart Church, came hurrying into the room. I always have had the utmost respect for the priesthood and the men who wear that collar. But I was about to appreciate the Catholic priesthood and the power that is in it in an entirely different way. I was also about to realize that  the purpose of God’s plan for the three of us to be in in that room, together, at that moment, was about to come together.

What happened next is part of the mystery of Faith. It is that great intangible that cannot be seen or touched. If a person has been gifted with faith and has embraced this gift they understand. If not, they have chosen not to. As St. Thomas Aquinas said so long ago, ““To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”

Father and I chatted briefly and then he went to work. He was about to administer the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick (formerly known as Extreme Unction). A Catholic priest is the only person who can offer the Holy Mass and administer the Sacraments of Penance, Confirmation (usually the bishop does this) and Anointing of the Sick. He has been given this power because he has received the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

He opened his prayer book and began to read. Then he took holy oil from a little gold receptacle, dipped his thumb in it, and anointed Marty’s forehead and hands with it. He prayed some more and then it happened. He said these words, “By the authority which the Apostolic See has given me, I grant you full pardon and the remission of all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” 

Marty had just been given what is known as the Apostolic Pardon. This was that moment in time where I understood everything that was going on. She was there, still alive, because God wanted her to be fully prepared for her impending journey, a journey that would now be straight and direct to Jesus Himself. I was there because without me, the priest would not have been available to impart his  power.

But this moment belonged to Father Anthony, a Catholic priest who had the power and authority to impart this pardon. Make no mistake, these are the moments when the radiance of the Catholic priesthood shines through because these are the moments a priest stands in the shoes of Christ . It was a beautiful and humbling thing to see.

                                  ©Copyright Larry Peterson 2017

Celebrating Our First Alzheimer's Christmas Together; Laughter Allowed

IT  MAKES SENSE TO ME

by Larry Peterson

I guess the first time I realized that something was really wrong was about a year and a half ago. I have a bedroom I turned into an office and I was sitting at the keyboard clicking away. I sensed someone behind me and turned to see my wife, Marty, standing there. She had a strange look on her face. I remember the moment because fear was etched across her face. “Hey,” I said. “What’s the matter?”

Then I noticed she was trembling. I stood up and went over to her and put my hands on her shoulders.  She stammered and sort of whispered, “I don’t know. I think I need your help.”

“Okay, what is it?”

Marty turned and headed down the hall past the living room and into the kitchen. I followed and noticed that she had her “cookie” stuff out. As she had done so many times in the past,  she was about to  make the best, old fashioned, home-made, chocolate-chip cookies I have ever had. Like a child, I said, “Oh, awesome, you’re making cookies. So, how can I help?”

“She sighed and shook her head, She began to cry and, looking at me, said, ” What is all this? I don’t know what it is for?”

The woman who had made thousands upon thousands of these cookies over the years had no memory of previously doing what she had done so many times before. She had placed the needed supplies on the counter and went to use the bathroom. When she returned a few minutes later what had been virtually second nature to her had been erased from her mind. It was all gone. She had come back to me for help because she KNEW something was terribly wrong inside her head and this time the sudden, specific memory loss was scaring the hell out of her. She sobbed, “What is happening to me?”

She had been sick with Lymphoma since 2011. She had endured numerous cycles of chemotherapy to fight the disease. Anesthesia required because of surgery in August (needed to repair a broken ankle) and an attack of A-Fib (Atrial Fibrillation) in September exacerbated the cognitive dysfunction. She was officially diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s Disease *on September 28. And now we are approaching our first Christmas together with  Alzheimer’s as our unwanted Christmas guest. Guess what—it is OK. He will not ruin our Christmas. He is welcome to join us. That is because we have started to laugh again, more and more. And we are laughing at the insanity of living in Alzheimerville. And trust me, it can get quite wacky.

I have always had a bit of a “flip attitude”. It probably has helped me get through some tough times. So when Marty goes to the cardiologist and goes to sign in and cannot remember her name she looks at me for help. I smile and say, “Who cares Lucy, they know who you are. Just put down Lucille Ball.”  She starts to laugh and I laugh and I write her name down for her. Not an issue.

The past ten years of her life seem to have literally vanished from her brain. She does not remember us getting married. (We were both widowed and married eight years ago. She has no clue.) So she asks me if we are really married. I show her our marriage license and pictures from our wedding. She is shocked. “I can’t believe it, ” she says. We really ARE married.” Now, every night I say to her, “Okay, we can sleep together tonight. Its not a sin.”  She always laughs at that.

There are so many little, extraordinary things that happen every day. Being asked the same question over and over can become unnerving. I have turned it around where I start by giving her the answer.  For example, she asks me ten times a day, “How do you feel today?”  After  a few times I answer, “Today I feel like seeing you and that makes my day shiny.”  It is a ridiculous answer but she likes it  and I like it too.

I cannot count the things that have been moved to the strangest places. I have found the Parmesan cheese in the towel closet,  unwashed clothes in the dryer. She makes coffee and tells me it is the worst coffee she ever had and I should let her make it. She has hair curlers that keep vanishing. I have found them in the garage, in the refrigerator and under the kitchen sink. We had been searching for them and when I found them in the refrigerator I said loudly, “Here they are.”

She was standing nearby and turned to see me lifting the bag from next to the milk. I quickly asked, “Can  I use these for curly fries?”  I began to laugh and she shook her head and smiled. I gave her a hug opened the freezer door and tossed the curlers in. “They are not frozen enough,” I said.  She began to laugh and so did I and, although shrouded in a dark moment, we laughed our way into the brightness of a new moment.

 Marty has been captured and imprisoned by the most insidious of diseases. It is like a computer virus slowly deleting what is in memory. So far the last ten years are gone. That cursor is still clicking, delete, delete, delete.. The day will come when she will not even know who I am. I will do my best to keep her laughing and smiling as long as I can and as long as she understands why we laugh.

As for me, I must admit, this entire situation has been wearing me down. There is a lot to do as a caregiver. I traveled a similar road with my first wife, Loretta, who died 12 years ago from cancer. She was sick a longtime but she never lost brain function. That is a very difficult thing to deal with 24/7. But you do what you have to do.  If a man and a woman love each other that is the way it should be, HAPPY to be there for each other, “no matter what”. We both took vows before God and man to that effect and, for me, they remain in full force until death.

Our biggest friend in all of this is our Catholic faith. It is there for us through the Holy Mass, through Our Lord Jesus, through Our Blessed Mother and through the examples and intercessions of so many great saints and reinforced every day by prayers from our family and friends.  In fact, I did attend Mass this morning and I had a bit of an ‘epiphany’. I was feeling a bit sorry for myself when I realized I had been given a Christmas gift from God Himself. (If you think I am crazy, I don’t care).

This gift is my ill wife afflicted with a disease that is unstoppable and incurable. She is foremost, God’s child, and now she needs someone to take care of her just as she did years ago when she was a child.  We met at church and were married in church. An unlikely couple, I know that God brought us together. Maybe this is why. Because during the Christmas season of 2014 I realized that besides a wife, HE has given me one of HIS children to care for. I will do my best to make Him proud. I will also do my best to keep us laughing. It is all GOOD.

MERRY CHRISTMAS
________________________________________________________________________

* In case you do not know this, Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia are NOT the same thing. Alzheimer’s is the number one cause of Dementia but there are over 150 different causes.                 &n
bsp;                                                     copyright Larry Peterson 2014

A Piano Concert Given on the Road to Nothingness

Through the fog of Alzheimer’s–The Piano Smile                            L.Peterson2016

 


by Larry Peterson

Until about four years ago, Marty, was never sick a day in her life. That is when the Lymphoma was discovered and the chemo began. The cancer would come and go and so would the PeT Scans and continued chemo treatments. Truthfully, it was never much more than an inconvenience. She never got sick, lost weight or had any of those stereotypical cancer fears materialize.
What did unexpectedly occur were the ever more frequent cognitive disruptions.  Memory lapses, asking the same question over and over and things like that. I spoke to her oncologist and he silently said with raised eyebrows, tightened lips and a shrug, ‘there might be a problem’.
Anesthesia administered during surgery for a severely broken ankle on August 1, dragged her deeper into the netherworld which, up until then, had only been toying with her.  Now it grabbed her and yanked her in. On September 24 a heart attack (A-Fib) resolved any uncertainty. Her “Fog” or CRCD (Cancer Related Cognitive Dysfunction) was diagnosed as Alzheimer’s Disease. Quicksand could not have been more efficient.  Onward and downward.
The hospital and rehab stay after the ankle surgery had lasted 20 days and the days spent in the hospital and rehab after the A-Fib attack lasted 33 days. She thought I had moved her into a new apartment and was wondering why I would not stay there at night.
Like a good “soldier” she would wait patiently, hour after hour after hour, until I returned the next day. Then, like a three-year-old who had been found by her daddy, her face would light up and she would say, “Oh thank God, you found me.” She knew she was “saved” and would hug me tight and not let go.
I freely admit that every damn day on the way home I cried thinking of how sad this was. My intelligent, independent, wife had become a lost child, the victim of an insidious demon inside her head who was erasing her brain. I had turned into a blubbering idiot. This Alzheimer’s thing was surely a despicable foe.
Marty returned home on October 26 with a bag full of new medications and a mind that was telling her that I had moved her into a ‘new’ house. She asked me if we “were married’, if we would sleep together in the same bed and if, in fact, her piano was new. After two weeks she had recovered some of (not all) her sense of belonging in “her home”.
She was still not sure where things should go and kept moving items from here to there without me knowing. I have (so far) had to search hi and low for the shampoo, the toothpaste, parmigiana cheese,  combs, and hairbrush etc.
So be it—together we plod forward with her doing whatever she will do and me learning to (at all times) expect the unexpected. This is a minute to minute journey, unplanned, without a destination and very spontaneous.  But—there can be beautiful moments and yesterday one unexpectedly came along.
Marty has played piano since she was a child and is quite an accomplished pianist. A concern of mine, while she was in rehab, was that she might not remember how to play. I have been told she will actually forget how to. Yesterday, those concerns were put on hold.
I was in my cluttered, paper-strewn office staring at the computer monitor when piano music began filling the house. I smiled to myself as I began to listen and then I realized this was something different. This was not the usual Marty, this was a transcendent  Marty.
I could not believe what I was hearing. She was playing the most beautiful music I had ever heard her play. “Stella by Starlight” filled the rooms followed by “Autumn Leaves” and then, my favorite, Chopin’s Major in E flat. I watched from the hallway and saw that she was lost within the music that she was bringing forth on that old piano.
Watching her play was like observing one of God’s magnificent flowers fully bloom. Realizing that these were now fleeting moments soon to be no more I had the good sense to record the entire hour that she played.  I figured that when she does forget how to play and does not recognize the piano or maybe even me, that music will still be here. That is when I will play it for her.  Maybe, just maybe, from whatever world she is in, she will take
pause and smile. Maybe she will remember some of her music. Maybe, just maybe…
   ©Larry Peterson 2016