Updates on Erika's 2007 and 2008 Surgeries ---
Erika loves to garden. This is her planting wild flowers in
our outer field in June 2004
Below is a picture of the flowers that bloomed early the first year.
Different colored wild flowers bloom at different times over the summer.
One of Erika's All-Time Favorite Authors Who Has Hope for the
Khaled Hosseini --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khaled_Hosseini
In August of 2011, two screws were protruding into the skin on Erika's upper back. In Boston, her surgeon removed some metal rods near her neck in hopes that the bone had sufficiently healed. Apparently the bone was too weak to support itself, and Erika ended up with three cracked vertebrae. Surgeons then went back and added metal and screws in the upper part of her back.
Then in September 2011 she broke two rods in her lower back. Surgeons then repaired those rods and added new support rods.
Personal Note on October 4, 2011 from Bob Jensen
Update on Erika --- http://faculty.trinity.edu/rjensen/Erika2007.htm
We're going home from Boston later today, and I will take care of Erika at home. Life is tough eating my cooking.
Her X-ray images make her spine look like it was built with an Erector set. Her surgeon says that there are two kinds of orthopedic surgeons. Many were former jocks in part because it takes strength and endurance for some types of orthopedic surgeries (Erika had one surgery where she was on the table for 14 hours). The other type of orthopedic surgeon is the type that liked to build things as a kid and often took up engineering as an undergraduate. The Stanford Medical School has various joint graduate programs with the Engineering School --- which is one reason an MD degree takes an extra year at Stanford.
The instruments table is similar to what one might find in a carpentry or metal working shop --- drills, screws, saws, chisels, braces, etc. The tension on the job in intense, because one wrong move and she's dead or paralyzed. This is spine surgery Number 15 for Erika --- eight in San Antonio, two in Concord, and five in Boston. Originally she injured her back 30 years ago while working as a nurse in an operating room. The surgeon asked her to lift a 200 lb instruments table over a power cord during a surgery on a man's back. They had to take Erika out of the operating room and put her in traction for a month in the hospital. She's had much more than her share of pain in life before and after commencing a succession of surgeries.
But life is more precious when she has good days. Life has some weird ways of making many people more appreciative of life and in testing courage, faith, and endurance.
2007 Surgery Updates
Preliminary Announcement in the January 3, 2007 edition of Tidbits
Preliminary Announcement in the January 8, 2007 edition of Tidbits
Update on January 17, 2007 from the NEBH
Update on January 26, 2007 from the NEBH
Update on February 1, 2007 from the NEBH
Update on February 8, 2007 from the Coolidge House
Update on February 24, 2007 from Sugar Hill
Erika Returns Home on March 3, 2007
Update on March 9, 2007
Update on March 20, 2007
Update March 31, 2007
Update April 18, 2007
Update May 6, 2007
Update May 23, 2007
Update on May 28, 2007
Neal Hannon's Poem on Memorial Day, May 28, 2007
Update on June 18, 2007
Update on October 3, 2007
Heart Attack on January 25, 2008
Spine Surgeries Numbers 11 and 12 on September 29, 2008
Return Home on October 21, 2008
Preliminary Announcement in the January 3, 2007
edition of Tidbits ---
I delayed sending out a holiday letter this year until after Erika has her heavy-duty spinal surgery on January 10 (which might be delayed if she can't shake her current head cold). Afterwards I will have more important news to put into the letter. We had to search around the nation to find a surgeon that would do this reconstructive operation. Erika even went to Milwaukee to see a specialist (her first back injury happened over 30 years ago while helping him perform a spine surgery). Following a variety of therapies she had eight previous surgeries on her back in Texas and New Hampshire. Sometimes surgeons put metal in and sometimes they took it back out. Life would be simpler if they just used Velcro instead of sutures.
There are very
few surgeons who will do the spine reconstruction that is now planned. The
technical name of the operation is Pedicle Subtraction Osteotomity for Fixed
Sagittal Imbalance ---
A lot of searching led us finally to Dr. Stephen Parazin in Boston. He operates out of New England Baptist Hospital (NEBH) and does about ten of these complicated surgeries each year. The surgery will last about 10-14 hours after which she will be on a ventilator for about two days in intensive care. Then it will be a couple more weeks in the hospital. A decision is then made by her doctors about a rehab hospital.
Surgeons will realign most of her spine by breaking vertebrae, installing space-age metal, and fusing bone. Afterwards she will stand perfectly upright. However, nobody knows how much her pain will be relieved. She's so looking forward to having a normal life and being able to tend her gardens next spring.
Erika knows the spectrums of good times/hard times, courage/fear, hope/pain, and faith/love. Please keep her in your prayers! You can read her Year 2000 story (with pictures) at http://faculty.trinity.edu/rjensen/erika/xmas00.htm
Preliminary Announcement in the January 8, 2007
edition of Tidbits ---
In the January 3 edition of Tidbits I provided some details of Erika's
upcoming surgery ---
We leave for Boston tomorrow. A team of surgeons will commence early in the morning on January 10. For her these 10 -14 hours on the table will pass in an instant. But she will awaken in pain hell. She's awakened in pain hell on eight previous spine surgeries. Women who recall the pain of childbirth might empathize by multiplying childbirth pain by 10 for intensity and 100 for duration.
After having lived in severe and incessant pain for so many years, it puts faith in God to the test by asking "What did I ever do to deserve this?" or "Why can't I just die?" Erika's faith is abiding, and she never asks such questions! She never questions God's plan for her. It makes her truly appreciate the few good days in which the pain is less intense. And her expectations for life in Heaven are much lower than for most. She'd happily scrub toilets and wait tables for eternity in Heaven if she can do so free of pain.
It brings tears to her eyes to know so many of you are praying for her and wishing her well.
For those of you closer friends
intending to send flowers, Erika says she will settle for the "The
Rose" that is given by the hospital itself to all incoming patients.
Erika prefers that you instead send an equivalent amount of money to the
Baptist Hospital --- a small orthopedics and neurosurgery hospital
(150 beds) that has Rank 15 among U.S. hospitals according the US News
Among other distinctions NEBH is the official hospital of the Boston Celtecs --- a good thing too since they're in pain most of the time. Jack Nicholas also chose this hospital for his hip replacement surgery. The NEBH is also affiliated with two famous medical schools in Boston.
Please mention that her lead surgeon on this tremendous effort is Dr. Stephen
Parazin. He plans to perform the following surgery on Erika Jensen in
Boston's New England Baptist Hospital on January 10. Her surgery is called
Pedicle Subtraction Osteotomity for
Fixed Sagittal Imbalance ---
Ways to Give are summarized at http://nebh.org/display.asp?node_id=3699&leaf_id=6318
In the UC --- Berkeley Medical School, Dr. Parazin conducted some cutting edge spinal surgery research, albeit case-method research. He also received outstanding training from uniquely-specialized surgery professors at the UC Medical School
Jean Heck and I updated our paper on the sad state of case-method research in academic accountancy at http://faculty.trinity.edu/rjensen/395wpTAR/Web/TAR395wp.htm
Update on January 17, 2007
My two previous messages about Erika’s surgery were given in the following editions of Tidbits”
On January 10, 2007 Erika was on the operating table for nearly 12 hours and spent two nights in the Intensive Care Unit. Surgeons removed the hump in her back and broke her back in three places. They then meticulously chipped vertebrae, aligned her spine, fused bone into spaces, and attached space-age metal to hold the fusions in place until the bone knits. They are very happy with their work. Erika now has a proper (and very normal) inward spine curvature instead of an outward and twisted curvature. This surgery corrected some mistakes made in her previous surgeries.
She will be soon be able to stand proud and tall. Hopefully she will be able to walk a mile on a mountain road in August and enjoy every step of the way. But in the meantime she’s in pain hell. She will also have to wear a fiberglass clamshell brace that runs from her neck to her hips. It is also attached to a brace on her left thigh that makes her side stiff. It can be loosened when she sits down. She only has to wear the brace when she walks. The brace will have to be worn until the bone fusions are knitted. We hope she can stop wearing the brace in August.
Erika’s doctors are having great difficulty managing her pain. A huge problem is that she was on narcotic pain medications for so many years before this ninth surgery. It is now doubly difficult to manage her pain without killing her and without hurting her bowels. One of the huge problems with pain medication is the possible adverse effect on bowel functioning. It’s not possible at this point to relieve as much pain as she would like to have relieved.
Gas pressure has built up in her bowel following the surgery. This is normal, but it is not normal for this to build up for so many days. While this pressure is there, she can only ingest bits of water. Doctors are trying to reduce the pressure with special medication that is not normally necessary. On January 16 she commenced to receive nourishment intravenously from what the nurses call (slang) a milk pack or a cow pack.
Thus far she’s been too weak and in too much pain to stand up. But her doctors are now insisting that she must stand soon and take some steps. This will be agony for her.
She will be in the New England Baptist Hospital (NEBH) longer than expected until she can eat, walk, and go to the bathroom. Then she will be taken by ambulance to a nearby therapy hospital that is owned and operated by the NEBH hospital. The therapy hospital is called the Coolidge House. She will be in the Coolidge house until she can walk greater distances, climb stairs, ride in a car, dress herself, etc.
Erika’s road to recovery will be long and exceedingly painful. She considers herself lucky to be chosen by this team of skilled surgeons to straighten her out and probably save her life since her “sinking” and “twisting” was commencing to press on her lungs and other organs. She’s strongly supported by her God, her medical care team, me, and her always-loving family and friends.
It’s her unwavering faith in God that sustains her in this time of unbelievable pain and suffering. She’s not yet able to talk on the telephone. But she does enjoy your cards and letters.
I spend about 12 hours each day with her in the hospital. It has been healthy for me because I walk some in the hospital and get about ten hours of sleep each night in the Holiday Inn in Brookline. I read a lot and stay separated from my work. It’s a bit like a vacation for me. But it’s no fun to watch helplessly while she suffers like this. She’s fortunate to have a private room in this very difficult phase of her recovery.
Thank you so much for caring.
Update on January 26, 2007
Erika thanks all of you
who sent cards and e-messages. She especially likes when I read her messages
(Warning: This link should no longer be used because Erika will soon be transferred to the Coolidge House on February 2)
This week Erika moved ten steps forward and six backward. She became able to eat whole food, lift her legs in bed, sit up, and even stand briefly on her feet. But she still has a lot of pain. The pain in her legs bothered her lead surgeon so he ordered more tests. On January 24 she had to have an MRI, myleogram, and two CAT scans. This was torture for Erika, especially the myleogram.
On January 25 her medical team decided to once again open up her back. Her lead surgeon somehow wants to somehow ease the compression causing hard pain in her legs and hips.
Following her 12-hour surgery on January 10, Erika was on the operating table for two hours on January 26. Surgeons removed some blood clots that were pressing on nerve roots and added more metal and screws. The value of the metal on Erika’s spine is now worth more than the metal in a new Mercedes and cost much, much more to assemble. If I didn’t love her so I could make some money in the scrap metal market.
Erika’s optimism never falters no matter how severe the pain. She has the utmost faith in her wonderful medical team. Her faith in her God, her medical team, me, and wonderful family and friends has not faltered --- not a single time. I hope she’ll be an inspiration to all of you in times of pain and suffering.
Erika will be in the NEBH much longer than originally expected. Eventually she will be taken by ambulance to a nearby therapy hospital called the Coolidge House. As I indicated previously the Coolidge House is owned and operated by the NEBH.
Her medical team is optimistic that she will eventually be normal with little or no pain. This is not so for a 46-year old man that I met on her floor. He has no hope for being pain free or even for getting decent sleep. His surgeons decided to sever some nerves on his spine. Afterwards he was so happy that he slept for four hours, but there’s no hope to ever reaching a low pain level. His good wife and five sons keep him going.
Incidentally, he had no back pain at first, but as a master plumber he kept dropping his tools. The first incorrect diagnosis was that he had MS. When he started getting tremors the next incorrect diagnosis was Parkinson’s disease. What he really has is severe spina bifida. Just goes to show how tough diagnostics can be even the modern times.
Early each morning I walk about two miles on my hotel’s treadmill. In the past I always viewed this as a dreaded chore. Now I have a new attitude. I’m exceedingly grateful that I can do this without pain. I’m thankful that I can climb the four flights of stairs at the hospital without using the elevator. But for the twelve flights of stairs in my hotel I take the elevator. Gratitude has its limits.
Erika thanks you all for your prayers and words of encouragement.
God bless all of you.
February 1, 2007 Update
There's bright news to report on Erika's progress. Following her second surgery on January 26 she was hurting a great deal and was very week all week end. On January 29 she received two pints of blood. The second surgery seemed to set her back a great deal, and I was secretly discouraged. However, on January 30 Erika walked for the first time. It was just a few steps in her room with therapists flanking each side, but SHE WALKED! Unfortunately her pain is still intense all the way down to the bottoms of her feet.
On February 1, she walked ten feet and seems much stronger. Note that on February 2 she's being transferred to the Coolidge House therapy hospital owned and operated by the NEBH --- http://www.hospitalsoup.com/rn/asp/HospitalID.9011587/pt/hospitaldetails3.asp
Coolidge House, 30 Webster Street, Brookline, MA 02146
I cannot find an e-messaging service for the Coolidge House. Cards can be sent to the above address.
I will tell you a bit about my life in Boston. I came home twice to check on the house, and the rest of the time I've been with Erika in Boston. I'm too chicken to drive in Boston, so I only drive 80 miles south to Concord, the Capitol of New Hampshire. There I catch a Trailways bus that takes me directly to Boston's historic South Station. I time my bus trips to avoid rush hour traffic. The bus trip takes less than 90 minutes. Then I take a taxi to the hospital.
The NEBH is among the cluster of big hospitals and smaller specialty hospitals surrounding the Harvard Medical School. It is unbelievable that there is no hotel adjacent to the Harvard Medical School or any of the hospitals. The NEBH has an annex for families of patients, but the annex is closed this year for renovation. The NEBH recommended that I stay at the Holiday Inn in Brookline. This is a relatively large 250-room hotel.
The NEBH is a little over two miles from my hotel. But it can take upwards of 20 minutes for a taxi to wind its way through a rat's maze of narrow streets and frustrating traffic snarls between my hotel and the hospital. The free hotel van sometimes goes to six hospitals and both the East Campus and the West Campus of the Harvard Medical School. The trip to my hotel can take upwards of an hour. But it normally only takes about 30 minutes. I usually take this hotel van that makes a run every hour to and from the NEBH. I would walk once in a while but there's one part of town along the way that scares this old country boy.
When Erika transfers to the Coolidge House therapy hospital there's good news and bad news. The Holiday Inn van does not go to the Coolidge House. But this hospital is only about a mile away, and this will be a good walk for me both ways each day. The problem is that we've no idea when Erika can be transferred to the Coolidge House.
I usually arrive at the NEBH around 7:30 a.m. in time to help Erika with her breakfast. Then I help in any way I can during the day. I read a lot and take long walks. I eat all my meals at the NEBH, and I'm eating healthy and walking about four miles each day. In January I lost 20 lbs and want to lose 10 more lbs so I can get down to 195 lbs.
Although I process some email each day, I really don't work on the computer much since I want to give my time to Erika.
Thank you for caring.
February 8, 2007
This is our wedding
anniversary, so it seems appropriate to send out an update. Erika is in Room
207-B of the Coolidge House therapy hospital. She’s been there for one week
and likes it much better than the NEBH. It is smaller and much more
friendly. The food? Well now that’s another matter!
Coolidge House, 30 Webster Street Brookline, Massachusetts 02146 --- http://www.hospitalsoup.com/rn/asp/HospitalID.9011587/pt/hospitaldetails3.asp
Erika is at a stage where
progress is measured in inches rather than full strides.
1. She stands fully upright with good posture.
2. She sat in a chair and ate her lunch today --- the first time to do so since January 10.
3. She can walk about 30 feet down the hall and back again --- with each step being very painful. For such walks she must wear a brace on her right knee and her fiber glass clam shell on the top of her body. A therapist holds on to a belt around her waist in case she starts to fall.
4. She eats normal food and has put on weight to a point that she’s now upset about that.
5. Her spirit is up more and more, and she has steadfast hope for full recovery. Your cards and messages helped more than you know.
1. She still is in pain all the time. Her legs are very weak and especially painful.
2. She still has to have hospital staff help when getting in and out of bed or a chair.
3. Her right leg still buckles now and then and she’s fallen to her knees twice.
4. I hired a woman (a pain therapist) to visit Erika and purchased the woman’s CDs --- http://www.healfaster.com/
Although this type of visit helped a woman down the hall a great deal, it did not do anything to help Erika. She’s not
at a stage where mind can take over matter as far as pain is concerned.
5. It appears that Erika will be in the Coolidge House well into March.
She sends her greetings and thanks all of you for your prayers and support.
February 24, 2007
I came home this week to check on the house in preparation for Erika's anticipated release from her rehab hospital. I knew there was a lot of new snow, but I was not aware that this "Nor'easter" was one of the worst storms in decades. I came home to nearly three feet of new snow that high winds had whipped into huge drifts twice as deep. My plowed driveway is like a tunnel. Whereas Boston on the coast was covered in deep ice, Sugar Hill in the mountains was buried in snow --- although not as deep as some places in upstate New York where entire houses were buried in earlier storms.
Lon left a note in the kitchen that our alarm system had saved our house. In addition to motion detectors we added fire alert and temperature alerts to our security system. It turns out that, with temperatures plunging over forty degrees below freezing outside and gale-force winds, our furnace had quit while I was in Boston with Erika. The water pipes might've burst and flooded our house. It actually happened once before and caused considerable damage before we bought this cottage in the mountains.
The temperature detectors on the main floor and in the basement signaled the alarm company that the temperature inside the house had dropped below 45 degrees. The alarm company called our plumbing company, and plumbers with the aid of Lon from the Sunset Hill House entered the house and fixed the furnace. Only minor parts were needed, but those minor parts had prevented the furnace from running even though we had the system completely inspected in August.
Our neighbor down the road who has a large and beautiful vacation home (he's actually a physician still practicing in the Boston area) had a small water leak in his basement about three weeks ago. Until somebody checked on the house, the water rose to nearly a foot deep in the basement. His basement was beautifully finished. Now all the carpeting has been thrown out and much of the furniture must be replaced. The house must be professionally dried out to prevent mildew. It could've been much worse, however, if the water rose much higher in the basement.
If our house flooded at this juncture in Erika's pained recovery, it might well have been more than she could take at the moment. Sometimes alarm systems really do work as intended. God, with the aid of electronic security and good neighbors, is looking over us.
Erika's therapists indicated last week that she might be released in the first week of March. However, her right knee keeps buckling when she walks with her walker. Her doctors might keep her in rehab longer than we thought when I came home on Sunday, February 18. They may take time to fit her with a custom-made leg brace and then keep her in rehab until she learns how to manage that locking brace. I will be in touch when we can get a more definite date, possibly in mid-March. Much depends upon what her main surgeon decides when she has her appointment in his office on February 27. All the doctors are still confident that her leg will eventually work properly, but recovery could take nearly a year.
The enduring and mysterious problem is pain in her back, hips, and legs. Her main surgeon may also order some delaying tests such as another MRI and/or CAT Scan in the NEBH (beyond the X-Rays he plans to take in his office next Tuesday). He’s still trying to locate the source of her severe pain.
I’m actually glad that Erika will be in rehab longer. The longer she stays the stronger she will be for the trip home. Friends in the Sugar Area have been wonderful. Since I'm still too chicken to drive inside the city of Boston, there've been various offers to pick Erika up at the Coolidge House rehab hospital and drive her home from Boston. Thus far, however, we've no idea when she will be released.
Friends are also helping in other ways, including inviting me to dinner. Dorothy Corey, bless her heart, even came by and did some shoveling on our front porch which I'd not yet cleared of deep snow. Dorothy was worried that I wouldn't shovel as well as possible at the entry where we plan to carry Erika into the house. She knows that I'm absent minded.
Especially I want to thank Lon and Nancy who own the Sunset Hill House less than a quarter mile down the road. It's been a busy week for them in their inn, tavern, and restaurant. With the deep snow, the down-hill and cross-country skiers have returned.
World's Happiest Innkeepers
Sunset Hill House -- A Grand Inn
231 Sunset Hill Road
Sugar Hill NH 03586
Lon and Nancy have been watching over our house, watering Erika's plants, plowing our driveway, bringing me meals when I return home, and seem to genuinely enjoy being great neighbors. Without feeling embarrassed I can ask them for help with most anything. They're also active in our community church, which by the way is planning a potluck when Erika returns. An offer has also been made for a new minister.
Thanks for caring and helping!
Erika Returns Home on March 3, 2007
After seeing her doctor on February 27, I drove Erika back home on March 3. She was released on March 2 in the midst of hard winds and drenching rain in the second "Nor'easter" of the year. Not wanting to drive home in a storm, I took her to a hotel in Medford on the outskirts of Boston. The next morning was the dawn of a beautiful day, so we drove about three hours up to our home in the mountains. Lon Hendersen and Bob Every were on hand as we drove up the driveway. Lon had the driveway, front walkway, and front porch all cleared of snow. We put her into her new wheel chair and carried her into the house.
Erika can walk with a walker, although she wears a fiber glass upper body "clam shell" and a custom leg brace on her right knee. She's still in a lot of pain and relies on heavy pain medication. But her spirits are high since she got home. I went to our tiny community church the next day and said a prayer of thank you for giving us good weather for the return home. Church members are commencing to bring us dinners. What a fantastic congregation! Unfortunately we did not get our new minister, so it's back to square one for the search committee.
Unfortunately our dining room ceiling is leaking and ruined the ceiling again. Every spring we get a mysterious leak around a window dormer above the dining room. The roof is three years old and was rebuilt from scratch. Ice shield was placed under all the new shingles. But every spring the roof seems to leak once again when spring thaws begin.
With all this new snow I hear the skiing is fantastic. I need some supplies stored up in my barn and will trudge out in snow shoes later this afternoon. This is one of my favorite times of the year in the mountains.
Thank you for your cards, email messages, and prayers.
March 9, 2007
Erika is literally housebound since she can not handle our stairs, but she does not mind since it's below zero outside. The snow is well over our fences on the level, and there are enormous drifts. In a month we'll be able to water ski in the back yard. People that live up here generally consider the April thaw to be the worst time of year --- the mud and maple syrup season.
For now I am enjoying the magnificent winter views on all sides of our cottage. I actually love this time of year before the dreaded thaws begin. I trudged on snow shoes out to the barn this week. Snow shoes are more difficult for me than cross country skis. If a snow drift is six feet deep, the snow shoes often bury themselves down a foot into the snow. Going over a steep bank of snow is also awkward for me. But I made it and had to spend a long time digging down with a shovel just trying to get the barn door open a crack.
Erika is now visited three times each week by a physical therapist and once a week by a pain nurse. From here on out progress will be measured in inches from day-to-day and week-to-week.
|Temp -30.1°F||Wind 321° (NW), 90.5 mph||
Wind Chill -82.9°F
Update on March 20, 2007
Erika is making progress in millimeters. Nerves heal very slowly. A therapist now comes twice a week, and a nurse comes about once a week to help with pain management and diet. Erika can walk with a walker, and she can go short distances with a cane. She now can get in and out of bed on her own. I still have to help her with showers (that’s the fun part). Friends are still bringing food, although I cannot get Erika to eat much of anything. However, I surely enjoy the meals. Lon and Nancy cooked a complete steak dinner for us on Sunday. Erika ate some of that.
Today I had a company (recommended by Bob Every) from Concord investigate the possibility of putting a lift in our front porch in place of the circular stairs that we never use from the basement to the main floor. Recall that the entrance from our garage is on the basement level. Erika doesn't want a lift put in, because she's confident that she'll be able to handle stair steps in a few months. However, I worry about her trying to carry too much (like groceries and UPS deliveries) up the stairs. She really should not carry heavy things even after she's healed. But Erika has never had a whole lot of sense when it comes to lifting things. She always thinks she can move mountains!
I think we'll have the lift put in, although we still have to get the engineering drawings and have a contractor estimate the cost of building the shaft, etc. Companies have a huge variety of lift options these days.
I will drive Erika to Boston on April 9 so she can have another six-week checkup with her main surgeon on April 10. We may have to stay extra days if he orders a MRI and CAT scan. I've worked up the courage to drive into the city now that I know exactly what route to take to our hotel.
Today we’re having wind gusts over 50 mph on Sunset Hill, and the snow is blowing and blowing. It’s absolutely beautiful from inside the house --- Not so nice for folks who have to drive on the roads. I love winters up here --- nothing to mow, weed, or plant. Since we don’t use our front or back stairs in the winter, there’s not all that much snow to shovel. Doing so would take me days.
|2.9°F||283° (W), 71.8 mph||84.0 mph||-30.8°F|
Update on March 30, 2007
Three military jets just flew over Cannon Mountain. I swear that they almost took off the top of the ski tram. Mary Jo Jensen tells me that they were probably under the command of her son in Vermont. Her husband Blaine is my first cousin who lives on a farm and raises horses in Bruno, Minnesota where it's colder in the winter than where I live on most winter days (but not colder than the top of Mount Washington).
There’s not much change to report for Erika. She still has a lot of pain in both legs, but she also has reduced back pain. She’s a bit stronger, but she still cannot do a stair step. On February 9, I will be taking her to Boston for her second post-surgical check up. We may have to stay several days if her doctor orders a MRI and/or CAT Scan.
Below is a message that I received from one of my former doctoral students when I was on the faculty at Michigan State University. It is an inspirational message that Erika requested that I share with all of you.
From: Torben Thomsen [ mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org ]
Sent: Thursday, March 29, 2007 7:54 PM
To: Jensen, Robert
Subject: Encouragement for Erika
FROM: the mountain man of the west
TO: the mountain man of the east
Close to every full moon I start in the wee hours of the morning on the path toward to top of 10,000 ft Old Baldy timed to arrive at the top at sunrise. Being an accounting professor [a product of your early teaching] I see myself and our profession as "modeling" or mapping one reality into another. And so on my walks in the darkness I map human life into steps on the path with one hour of time mapped into 1 cm on the path. One cm is about the height of a handwritten line, so if you were writing the story of your life there would be one line of 1 cm for each hour. Since you note that Erika's progress is in millimeters--this works out to 1 mm for every 6 minutes of life.
Just before her surgery I hiked the Old Baldy path and prayed for her and you, but chose to turn around when I reached the Devil's Backbone where the wind was howling at close of 100 MPH [that is reminiscent of Mt Washington in your backyard]. The next hike was after the surgery and again I prayed for you and Erika from the mountain top as the sun was rising.
I was reminded to this old Scottish hymn that came out of an experience of suffering:
O Love that wilt not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee; I give thee back the life I owe, That in thine ocean depths its flow May richer, fuller be.
O light that followest all my way, I yield my flickering torch to thee; My heart restores its borrowed ray, That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day May brighter, fairer be.
O Joy that seekest me through pain, I cannot close my heart to thee; I trace the rainbow through the rain, And feel the promise is not vain, That morn shall tearless be.
O Cross that liftest up my head, I dare not ask to fly from thee; I lay in dust life’s glory dead, And from the ground there blossoms red Life that shall endless be.
Then I just came back from Maui where my oldest son got married. And from the top of 10,000 ft Haleakala, I again remembered both of you in prayer as the sun was rising [about six hours after rising in Sugar Hill].
I am just about to take another trip up Old Baldy and would like to pray from that specific spot on the path where Erika's life is now. But to do that I need her birthday [unless that is confidential information]
Interestingly enough Old Baldy if 2,500 miles as the crow flies [and it passes over Michigan State University] from Mt Washington, and Haleakala is 2,500 miles from Old Baldy.
My best wishes as you slowly crawl toward recovery [and springtime in the mountains]!!
Update on April 18, 2007
We're still awaiting news about Erika's CAT Scan on April 10. There's not much change. She still has bad Sciatic pain in both legs and cannot do a single stair step. Her back, however, is a lot better. She can stand straight and bend down quite a lot.
The lift company is coming today to install the wiring for our new lift. We hope it will be installed by the end of the month, but that may be wishful thinking.
An edition of Tidbits was supposed to be released at 6:00 a.m. on April 16, but, before I could send the file to my Web server, 80+ mph winds toppled tens of thousands of trees in the White Mountains and knocked out our power and Internet connections for nearly two days. Winds on Mount Washington rose to over 150 mph. These roaring winds also took off half of the shingles on the northeast side of our relatively new roof. The falling snow at 5:00 a.m. on April 16 changed to horizontal rain that, among other things, ruined our dining room ceiling (again). Sigh!
But all-in-all we're lucky. It would've been far worse without heat had the temperatures been below zero. There was never any threat of pipes freezing up. Erika and I stayed relatively cozy with the four iron propane stoves in our fireplaces. We have some trees down in our woods and the dining room ceiling "wall paper" and underlying plaster needs replacing. Our roofing company made temporary repairs to our roof. Others nearby were not so lucky. There will be much damage with flooding down in the lowlands.
Next week, after the horse is out of the barn, we're setting the wheels in motion to install a propane electricity generator that will kick in whenever the power goes out. Outages occur altogether too often up in these mountains, but usually (not like April 16-17) power is restored in less than six hours. If any of you are interested in a generator, the cost we discovered is about $10,000 for what we want. There are, of course, both cheaper and more expensive alternatives.
We're used to howling winds. but for much of April 16 there was a roaring freight train of wind and rain. The rain quickly melted much of the snow, but where snow drifts were over four feet deep there are still gushy snow banks. I had to shovel yesterday to get into my barn.
What was really eerie was to look out into the pitch black and not see a single light anywhere. Clouds blocked our view of the night sky. Normally we can look down in any direction at the night's lights of several villages There was not one visible light while our power grid was shut down. It was shut down so that chain saw crews could cut trees leaning on power lines.
And then the first thing we learned when our power was restored was about the senseless tragedy at Virginia Tech, a campus where I've been invited to speak several times over my career. This morning I learned that the daughter of a Virginia Tech accounting professor, Bryan Cloyd, was killed. She was a first-year student in a French class when she was shot.
This makes our storm ordeal seem entirely trivial.
Part of a message received from Niki on April 18, 2007
Hope we do not have any more horribly strong winds...we had a large pine tree fall on our home...shocked us awake about 5 in the a.m. when one of the branches poked through the ceiling over our beds!!! The insurance folks came to film the damages, and then the tree people removed it from our roof, and we had a roofer cover the holes, and so it goes....as we often say: "IT could have been worse!!" Our love to Erika, and God bless her...and you too, Bob. Thanks again for your wonderful story.
Niki & Charles
Update on May 6, 2007
The May 6 update with pictures can be found at http://faculty.trinity.edu/rjensen/tidbits/2007/tidbits070506.htm
Update May 23, 2007
This is a picture that I took down the road about a mile from our cottage. Erika still has a lot of pain, but now she has some ups as well as downs in her life. Her lift is installed and runs beautifully. She drove the car a bit yesterday when we went to the Gottwick's house for a German dinner.
Doctors are still puzzled about how to give Erika pain
relief. She's suffering from a very difficult problem called spinal stenosis,
especially where her lower back connects to the hips ---
I will keep you posted as we learn more.
I am invited to spend a year in a new think tank called the U.S. Studies Center at Sydney University. It's a great honor, and Erika is bugging me to accept. Bless her heart if not her brain on this one. She always gets starry eyed over adventures. But I know how difficult it would be for her to travel so far and be away from her medical team. I have a lot to think about before making a decision, and it's been over 30 years since I last spent two years in CASBS think tank at Stanford University. But I'm ever so grateful for the opportunity.
Wikipedia and most other online helpers are very demanding regarding the exact spelling of a word or a name. For example, my wife asked me to look up something she discussed with her surgeon (on the telephone) that she wrote down on a piece of paper as "arachnoitus." What's a medical dummy like me to do to help her?
No luck in finding anything about "arachnoitus" in Wikipedia,
I know the drill.
Google is fantastically programmed to deal with misspelled words. When I read "arachnoitus" into Google the return was "Do you mean Arachnoiditis? I then put "Arachnoiditis" on the clip board and pasted it into the search box at Wikipedia.
Arachnoiditis --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arachnoiditis
Alternate definitions can be found by feeding in "define Arachnoiditis" in Google, but my wife was very happy and sad with the Wikipedia module which seems to me to be quite helpful. It looks like she's got arachnoiditis and spinal stenosis for the long haul. I'm glad that her new lift is working so well. But her suffering is bad.
Neal Hannon is a former accounting professor who now is on the staff of the Financial Accounting Standards Board. He deals mostly with XBRL, but he also writes poems. He sent this poem on Memorial Day for Bob and Erika.
I depend on
My love for you
My need for you
My pledge to support
For you give me a gift
That helps me celebrate life
And discover the passion
That was for too long
Bottled up inside
I wish for you
To be my friend
To be my lover
For all our days together
I will give you
What I can
Whenever I can
And will cherish you
Now and forever
Hope all is well.
remember love (turn on your speakers)
Here's a love poem (about an old dog like me) forwarded by Auntie Bev --- http://doyourememberlove.com/musiconlymovie.html
Update on June 18, 2007
picture shows Erika in her new lift. The following picture shows her in front of
our wild roses. She's still in a lot of pain. But she did truly enjoy a visit
from Dick and Sybil Wolff, our very dear friends from San Antonio. There's not
much new news about her to report. Recovery is slow and painful ---
She wants to thank you all for your many messages of hope, faith, and encouragement.
As for me, I'm pulling weeds. The wet weather and long days means weeds, weeds, and more weeds. This week part of one garden will be dug up for a new underground 500-gal. propane tank. We need the added fuel for a new Winco generator that will be installed on a slab poured under our deck. Such is life in the mountains where the winds come roaring in to down trees and power lines.
And it's the Lupine Festival on Sugar Hill. I took many beautiful pictures yesterday. One of my shots is shown below:
You can seen more Spring 2007 pictures
(There are a few good ones where I did not jiggle the camera.)
The photograph above was taken from our living room last winter when we did not have so much snow. I have not yet processed the photographs for this winter. My camera shoots directly to a CD, and I'm still adding pictures to the CD.
Update on October 3, 2007
Erika can now drive herself!
In January 2007, surgeons broke Erika's back in three places and reconstructed her spine with an extraordinary amount of titanium. I'm pleased to say that on October 3 she drove the Jeep Cherokee all by herself. This 1999 Jeep is our winter car with all-wheel drive for deep snow. Our summer car is a 1989 Cadillac that I inherited from my father in 2001.Because the summer car has lower seats, Erika still cannot get out of that car without help. However, she can get in and out of the Jeep by herself and drive to and from town by herself. She's contended over the years that the Jeep is a more comfortable car, at least for her, than our old Cadillac. Since the Jeep's snow tires make a rather loud whine on the highway, I tend to prefer the summer car in the summer.
Heart Attack on January 25, 2008
On January 24, 2008 Erika had successful sinus surgery from Dr. Rankin in the Littleton Regional Hospital. In the recovery room she had some chest pain not unlike some chest pains she had across the years. To be on the safe side he doctor had her admitted to the Intensive Care Unit, and a cardiologist ordered some tests. He did not like the enzyme test results that indicate likely heart attacks so he ordered that she stay overnight in the ICU. About 3:00 a.m. on January 25, she had really severe chest pains that were due to a serious heart attack. Fortunately the ICU is the place to have such an attack. They went to work on her immediately and filled her with medicines to stabilize her condition.
Soon afterwards she was transported by ambulance to the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center Critical Coronary Care unit. There they did an immediate heart catheterization and determined that her arteries were clear. Her report now reads "acute anterior/apical myocardial infarction with normal coronary arteries." The bottom line diagnosis is that she had a relatively rare artery spasm heart attack rather than a blockage heart attack. It appears that this type of attack could've happened most anywhere at any time for her, and there are signs that she had milder attacks in previous years (once on an airplane between Australia and New Zealand). It may have been lucky that this more serious one occurred when she was in ICU.
I brought her home late in the afternoon on January 26. She's resting now and will have to take a calcium channel blocker (Norvasc) once a day for the rest of her life. She also must carry Nitrostat in case of an angina attack.
But we thank God she's still with us and will get better.
Update on February 7, 2008
Erika has been in happier spirits and is more energetic than ever since her last spine surgery. She’s certainly not your typical heart attack victim (where depression is common). As a matter of fact she’s withdrawn from all her medication like Prozac. Of course she’s still on her pain meds. Tomorrow she starts heart attack rehab at the hospital (only about an hour three times a week). But that’s mostly old folks trying to stand on their tiptoes. Not much hope for this kind of rehab.
But we’re grateful she’s feeling so much better and sleeping well. I still tell her I’d trade her for a rich nymphomaniac who owns a chain of liquor stores.
It’s been a rough week behind my snow blower (actually that’s heavy, sweaty work).. It’s snowed every day and accumulated two feet just this week. It’s real pretty with the snow on the trees.
Thanks for caring.
September 29, 2008
I usually picture the closer mountain ranges to our east. The following two pictures show the view to the west.
Surgery Number 11 on September 29, 2008
I thought I would update you on Erika’s surgery.
She had her surgery on September 29 and will probably continue in the hospital part or all of next week. She still has some medical issues that need to be solved before she can be sent to the Coolidge House therapy hospital. Her pain is quite intense.
When we drove down to Boston on September 28, our Jeep Cherokee had some vibration problems for a two-mile stretch that worried me greatly. I did not want Erika in the Jeep if it stalled out on I-93 when returning her home. I thought I should maybe come home and get our other car. So I left Boston very early and drove back to Sugar Hill today (Thursday, October 2). The Jeep vibrated again today but only for about three miles. Then it worked normally the rest of the way home. Whew!
The Jeep Dealer nearby looked at it and said the differential needs repairing. The problem is that it may take a while to get the parts up in these mountains. So I will probably return to Boston in our other much older but more reliable car that at one time belonged to my father. It is our summer car, and the jeep is our winter car. I took the Jeep to Boston, however, since it is easier to load and unload a wheel chair that Erika might need when I bring her home. She can of course stand up now and walk a few steps. But I like the wheel chair along just in case she needs it when she’s released from the hospital. Fortunately, we now have an elevator in our house so it is easy to get her upstairs from the garage.
The main surgeon said that where the blockage was in her spinal canal it “looked like a bomb exploded.” It was packed with the scar tissue from 10 previous surgeries. Unfortunately the scar tissue closest to nerve roots could not be cut away due to risk of paralysis or death. But the surgeon could clear a channel through much of the scar tissue.
Only time will tell how much pain relief she will get from this 11th surgical try at reducing her back and leg pain. Of course she doesn’t always help the situation. The week before she went down for the surgery she took down and washed all the curtains in the house. I repeatedly scolded her for being on a ladder, but she’s a stubborn old kraut. But she’s also a pretty woman and soul mate that I love. You should see her garden roses this late into the autumn.
Her spirits are very good at the moment, but she’s heavily medicated for pain. The New England Baptist Hospital is the official hospital of the Boston Celtics and is ranked among the Top 25 orthopedics hospitals in the nation --- http://www.usnews.com/listings/hospitals/6140460
As I mentioned above I just don’t know when she will be released to go to the Coolidge House therapy hospital. She’s very familiar with the Coolidge House since she stayed there for a month after her 10th spine surgery.
Please don’t send gifts or flowers. But all the prayers you can muster will mean a lot to her.
Those that want to send letters or cards should probably send them to our house since we really don’t know when she will be moved to another hospital and how long she will be in the second hospital. I’m hoping she will be home in less than two weeks.The foliage is spectacular (80%) but probably will not peak for about a week. It has been warmer and wetter than usual this autumn.
Thank you so much.
Return Home on October 21, 2008
Happy Times 20 Years Ago
Her 11th surgery was on September 29. It was to be an exploratory surgery to find out why she has such chronic leg pain. The surgeons found scar tissue from previous surgeries to such an extent that her main surgeon told me that “it looked like a bomb went off.” Because she had problems lifting her left leg afterwards, she was operated on for the 12th time on October 3. Afterwards she could move her left leg, but there are still medical complications caused by nerve damage in the 11th surgery.
On October 9 she was transferred to the Coolidge House therapy hospital in Boston where she is walking quite well. But the leg pain is as bad as ever, so the latest two surgeries have done nothing to relieve pain. In addition there are other nerve damage complications and numbness in parts of her body. We’re hopeful that these nerves will awaken, but with each passing day hope waned until October 19 when there were slight signs that these damaged nerves were awakening.
I will return her home on October 21 and tend to her recovery in every way possible. We return to her main surgeon’s office in Boston on October 28.
Another unfortunate happening is that our beloved general practitioner locally in Franconia. Dr. Virginia Jeffreyes, is moving to Vermont. It thus appears that it will be a very long winter.
Erika will be unable to board an airplane until next summer or to be alone overnight here at home. But who wants to travel anyway? It is beautiful and peaceful in these mountains during the winter.
Now I can indeed live my life much more like David Thoreau on Walden Pond --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Thoreau
Here’s a picture I love from Year 2000 in Munich. Recall that when she was five years old, Erika begged for food outside the U.S. Army camps in Munich. Decades later she had a conversation with the Bergermeister of Munich in a reception held for some accounting professors. Christian Ude and his Finance Minister were awed by this American woman who spoke fluent