Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goodbye 2009, hello 2010!

It's hard to believe that another year is over and that a new year will begin tomorrow! Time does go so quickly! Not only will we be starting a new year, but a new decade. Things have changed so much in the past 10 years for me personally, but also in my family and in the world. 10 years ago I didn't have any nieces or nephews, but now I have 12 -- soon to be 16. My life has changed in a big way physically, of course, as I became permanently paralyzed in 2003. 10 years ago I was a young girl of 15, but now I'm an adult of 25.

It's crazy to think of all of the inventions of the past decade, as well as all of the technological upgrades and advancements too. A cell phone was just a telephone 10 years ago, but now cell phones are virtually palm-sized computers with wireless internet capabilities, and you can do all sorts of things with them like take pictures and video, send text messages and e-mails and even update your Facebook status! MySpace, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and blogs are all relatively recent "inventions" as well. I just wonder what kinds of things will be invented and how things will change and evolve in the course of the next decade.

My favorite New Year's Eve memory is from 2003. I was still in the ICU at Barnes Jewish Hospital, and my mom and two of my older sisters (Sharon and Annette) came to the hospital to spend the evening with me. I asked my mom to bring the original 1978 Superman movie with Christopher Reeve and crab rangoon from my favorite Chinese restaurant. I wasn't celebrating New Year's Eve the way I really wanted to or expected I would, but I was happy to be alive and happy to be with my family. It wasn't an extravagant celebration, but it was memorable.

Other highlights from my MS trip

One of my favorite things to do is watch movies/go to the movies, so my sisters Sharon and Chandra and Sharon's friend Shellie and I all went to the movies together the day after Christmas. We all enjoyed the movie (Sherlock Holmes), and I can't wait to see it again when it comes out on DVD. I was getting so sleepy towards the end of the movie that my eyes kept closing! I don't think I missed anything too crucial, though!

On the way home from the movie we stopped at Oby's (a restaurant in Starkville that I love) to get some takeout for dinner. Oby's has the best po' boy sandwiches (I actually don't know how to spell that!), and they also have really good seasoned waffle fries. The food was amazing; I got really stuffed! After we ate our dinner we played Mexican Train which is one of my favorite games.

We were in Mississippi for five days, so there was lots of time to play with my nieces. I adore my nieces and they are so much fun to be around. I also got my scrapbook updated, with Sharon's help, of course! She always claims that she's not good at scrapbooking, but somehow we always manage to make the best pages! Maybe my artistic input helps... who knows!

There's always a lot of good food to eat at Sharon's house, too! Sharon is a great cook and she makes the best dinners! She makes the best Christmas goodies, too, which is fortunate for my taste buds, but unfortunate for my waistline!

All in all we had a wonderful trip and I always enjoy my time in Mississippi!!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas in Mississippi

I had a wonderful trip to Mississippi to spend Christmas with my sister Sharon and her family, but I have to admit that I'm glad to be back home where I have my special bed and all of the other special gadgets that make my life easier!

Last Wednesday, my mom, my younger sister Chandra and I drove down to Starkville, Mississippi, where my older sister Sharon lives. It only takes about seven hours to get to Starkville, so it's not a bad drive at all which is fortunate because seven hours is about my limit in the car!

I had so much fun being around Sharon's family. Sharon has four daughters ranging in age from nine years old to 18 months and my nieces are such a joy to be around! They are always making me laugh by saying and doing the funniest things. It's especially sweet and funny when they make comments about my physical situation. I can tell that they think a lot about me and my physical limitations from the cute out of nowhere comments they make or questions they ask me.

Here are some of my favorite pictures from the trip:

My sister Sharon with me and all of her girls:
Grammy and Kate: Elizabeth, Sarah and me: Elizabeth and me: Rachel ready for Christmas breakfast:
Sarah and her laptop computer: Rachie exploring her stocking:
Sarah holding up one of Rachel's presents:
Elizabeth and Kate:
Sharon and me with her Shutterfly gift certificate: Grammy and three of the girls: Grammy, Kate and Rachel:
Sharon and Rachie: Christmas dinner: Tired Rachel: Elizabeth on her ninth birthday:

It was a great trip and it was so wonderful to be able to spend the holidays with family. I especially love spending Christmas with children because they are filled with the kind of excitement that is contagious. It was also wonderful to be able to spend Elizabeth's ninth birthday with her. She is such a delightful young lady and I'm proud to be her aunt!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


I thought of a funny story that I wanted to write about. When I was in second grade we were taught how to write in cursive. The first two letters that we learned were "i” and "t." I was so excited that I was finally learning how to write like a grown-up, and I went home and wrote the word "it" over and over and over. Each afternoon my teacher introduced one or two new cursive letters. We went through the entire alphabet in lower case, and then we went through the alphabet again in upper case.

When report cards came out later in the quarter I was devastated to find out that I'd gotten a C in handwriting. I've never received a C before and I was sure that I was going to get in trouble for getting what I thought was such a poor grade. When my dad asked to see my report card I was sure that I was going to get scolded for my C, however, my dad didn't say anything about the C at all. I was so relieved! I kept working on my handwriting and by the end of the semester my handwriting grade was an A.

Penmanship was something that I tried hard at, and I eventually ended up with really nice handwriting. Granted, my handwriting wasn't the best in the world, but I always tried to write neatly and legibly. I always felt a sense of pride that I had nice handwriting because it seemed like handwriting (especially cursive) was (and is) becoming more and more of a lost art due to the ever growing prominence of computers.

Here are a couple samples of my handwriting, one cursive and one print: (these are from one of my notebooks that I took notes in for nursing school. On the bottom sample I had to write really small because my worksheets didn't have very much space on them, so it's kind of hard to see my print handwriting. They aren't the best pictures, but hopefully you can see some of the words)

If you can't tell, I always used pens with blue ink. I didn't like black ink at all. I just thought/think things written with blue ink look so much more personal. Silly, I know, but blue ink was always a must for me!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A few more Christmas memories

I've thought of several more Christmas memories since I made my first post about Christmas a couple of days ago. My family also had several Christmas traditions related to food. There were several Christmas goodies that we would make every year, and we always had the same special dinner of clam chowder, meats, cheeses and crackers on Christmas Eve. On Christmas morning my mom would always make sweet rolls, usually cinnamon rolls and caramel pecan rolls. I'm not a huge fan of cinnamon rolls, but I dearly love caramel pecan rolls!

Yesterday I thought of another favorite Christmas gift that I received as a child. When I was in kindergarten we had to tell our teacher what we wanted for Christmas so that she could write it down on a piece of paper. Then we had to draw a picture of the thing we wanted. I was embarrassed to tell my teacher that what I wanted most for Christmas was a microphone and a radio. I'm not sure why this embarrassed me, but I remember thinking I should come up with a gift that was a little more girly, like a doll. However, I ended up telling me teacher that I wanted a microphone and a radio even though I felt embarrassed.

I did get my microphone for Christmas. It was actually a little red keyboard that had a microphone attached to it with a cord. I'm not sure why I wanted a microphone so badly, but I thought it was so neat how microphones amplified people's voices. Anyway, this red keyboard and microphone was a huge hit the Christmas of 1989!

Christmas 2003 was definitely different for me since I had just gone through a complete physical transformation and I was spending my holiday season in the ICU that year. I definitely missed participating in all of the usual Christmas festivities, and especially being at home with my family and friends.

One thing that especially disappointed me was that I wasn't able to make my mom's Christmas present. Earlier that fall I'd come up with a really good idea of something that I wanted to make my mom for Christmas that year. From the time I was a little girl my mom had often given me little love notes in my lunch or on my pillow. I saved them since they were special to me and I had them all in a box. I thought it would be really special to glue some of these notes around a picture of my mom and me and then I would frame it and give it to her so that she could display it in her bedroom.

Needless to say, now that I was paralyzed I couldn't make this gift like I had originally planned. I was still determined to get the gift made, so I asked my good friend Adam to help me make it. He went over to my house and got the supplies that I needed, and then one Friday he came to the hospital and we spent the entire evening alone making this present for my mom. I told Adam what I envisioned the finished product looking like, and then we worked together, Adam doing all of the physical things like cutting and gluing, while I provided the artistic input. The finished product turned out well, and I was so pleased that I was still able to make this gift for my mom, and it was made even more meaningful considering what the two of us were/would be going through.

I scanned a picture of the finished product (minus the picture frame), but it's so big that the entire thing couldn't be scanned. Hopefully you get the gist of what it looks like, though.

Friday, December 18, 2009

How could I forget?!

I can't believe I forgot to mention one tradition that we always did as a family -- we always read the Christmas story out of the Bible either on Christmas Eve or on Christmas morning. When I was a very young girl it was always so hard for me to be patient while my dad read the Christmas story because I was eager to get to my presents.

Christmas 1998 with my dad's last Christmas. He was dying of pancreatic cancer, so we were all aware of the fact that it would be our last Christmas with him. Dad read the Christmas story to our family for the final time that Christmas morning and we tape recorded him doing this. Now we usually listen to this tape recording every year. It's good to not only hear the Christmas story, but to hear my dad read it. I'm glad this is something my family always did.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A few favorite Christmas memories

We didn't have very many Christmas traditions in my family when I was a child, but we had a few that have made lasting impressions on me. One tradition that I always loved was that we would always decorate our house for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving. We'd set out early in the morning and we would go to a tree farm and cut down a Christmas tree. I loved that we always had a real tree, and it was a lot of fun trying to pick out the best one. When we would get the tree home it was time to put the tree in the tree stand. We all crossed our fingers and hoped that the tree trunk wouldn't be too big for the tree stand and also that the tree would stand up straight and not lean to one side or the other once it was securely in the tree stand. My dad was always the one who put the lights on the tree. He was very good at this and he made sure that all of the lights pointed towards the ceiling. I loved decorating the tree and it was always so fun to see the finished product -- especially when all of the lights were turned off!

Our trees always turned out well, but the tree that I remember looking the best was in 1998 -- my dad's last Christmas. The tree was so big and the perfect proportion for our home. I have such fond memories of that Christmas and how beautiful our tree was.

We continued getting a real tree for several Christmases after my dad died, and I remember several of those Christmases where I was the one who took on the task of putting the lights on the tree (This was always a painstaking process and took a long time since there was a clip on each light so that it could attach to a branch of the tree.)

We stopped getting a real tree after I had my accident because we didn't have as much room anymore since our living room had been converted into my bedroom. Nowadays we just have a small, 4 foot fiber optic Christmas tree that we put in our family room. It's nice, but I definitely miss the old days when my family and I would spend the day after Thanksgiving cutting down a tree and decorating our house for Christmas.

Here are a few of my favorite Christmas gifts I received when I was a child:
-- A Bugs Bunny guitar that I got for Christmas when I was three years old. I was completely infatuated with guitars as a young child, so I was very excited to get my first guitar.
-- A Cabbage Patch Crimp and Curl Doll that I got when I was about eight years old. This doll had special hair with a wire in each strand. The doll came with a curling iron and a crimper and you could do different things to her hair and it would stay. The doll came with a birth certificate and her name was Frieda Tamra. I always thought it was such a weird name!
-- A porcelain doll that I got when I was about 10. I really wanted a porcelain doll and the one I got was so pretty. She had short brown hair and she was wearing a schoolgirl type outfit. I named her Susan.
-- 13 Dead End Drive. I wanted this game so badly when I was about 13 years old. It was a boardgame and it was similar to the game Mouse Trap in that you had to spend a lot of time setting the game up before you could actually play the game. I loved playing this game and I think it's still in my basement!
-- A 3-D puzzle that I got when I was around 13 as well. I've already written about my love of puzzles, so the thought of a 3-D puzzle was especially intriguing. These puzzles were very popular when they debuted in the 90's and so many kinds were available. My puzzle was a castle. It was pretty difficult and I don't think I would've been able to finish it without the help of my dad and my older sister Kristin. This might still be in my basement too, but I'm not sure. I wish I had a picture of my dad, Kristin and me with the finished puzzle.

I'm sure there are more presents that I really liked, but these are the ones that came to my mind. Even though I'm an adult and I physically can't play with toys anymore, I really love toys and I have a lot of fun picking out toys that I think my nieces and nephews will like.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Visit from "brother" Bret

This past weekend my dear friend Bret and his new wife Niki came into town for a visit. A very short visit... only about 24 hours. I consider that especially short when you take into account the 14 hour drive on each end of the 24 hours in St. Louis.

I met Bret a few years ago when I started going to a religion class at my church for young adults. He was one of the first friends I made when I started going out again for the first time after my car accident. Although he probably doesn't know it, he really helped me gain confidence as I made my social return to society.

Anyway, Bret and his wife now live in Cheyenne, Wyoming, but they needed to pick up some furniture that they'd left in St. Louis, and we were the lucky people that they asked to stay with overnight.

Bret, his wife Niki, Chandra and I went to a going away party on Saturday evening for some of our friends who are moving away. It was fun to go and socialize, but it was especially fun to see Bret and to get to know his wife a little better. Here are some pictures from the party:

Two groups shots:

Bret, Chandra and me: (it's really hard to get Bret posing seriously, so this picture is almost a success!)
Barbara and me:
JT and me:Nate and me:It was a fun evening and it was so wonderful to see Bret again.

Chandra's 21st birthday!

My younger sister Chandra turned 21 this past Sunday. We had a small family celebration with one of my other sisters Laura and her husband Brett. They came over for dinner and we had chicken enchiladas, peas and cranberries. My mom made an awesome chocolate cake with chocolate ganache frosting for Chandra's birthday cake. This is a recipe from my older sister Kristin, and it is to die for!

We had a fun evening celebrating, hanging out and playing games. We (except my mom) played one of my favorite games -- Phase 10 Masters. I have to play with a partner, of course, and Chandra was my partner this time. I'm not quite sure why, but I almost always win at games, but Channie and I lost this time! It was a great evening, though. I can't believe Chan is getting so old! Here are some pictures from Chandra's birthday, and especially of the cake:
Oh yeah, we also exchanged our Christmas presents with Laura and Brett that evening as well, so that was fun too!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Continuing my story

Continuing on in the story of my accident...I was still in the ICU at Barnes Jewish Hospital and I was slowly and steadily getting stronger. One exception was that I started having problems with my heart. My heart rate would slow way down, and as a result of the injury to my spinal cord, my nervous system couldn't tell my brain to make my heart speed up again. I would pass out as a result of not getting enough blood to my brain, which was very frightening, because although I could feel myself starting to black out, there wasn't anything I could do to prevent it. Long story short, my doctors thought the best solution would be to put a pacemaker in my chest to regulate my heart rate.

My pacemaker surgery was scheduled for December 15, nearly one month after my accident. I still was wearing the halo vest, which had been put on three weeks previously when I had my neck stabilization surgery. I'm not sure why, but I couldn't go into surgery to get the pacemaker with the halo on, so it had to come off early, even though I was supposed to wear it for three more weeks.

On the morning of my surgery a doctor and a nurse who I'd never met came into my room at 5:30 in the morning and began to dismantle the halo. I thought the halo would be taken off in surgery after I'd already been put to sleep, but this wasn't the case. The doctor had a wrench and he just went to work without even acknowledging me, even though I was obviously awake. Since the halo was attached to my skull with four long screws, it was excruciating to have the doctor jerking my head back and forth as he took the halo apart. When the halo was finally off, the doctor and nurse dumped all of the pieces for the halo onto the floor in the back of my room, and then they left without even putting my head on a pillow. I was stunned at what had just happened, and I remember feeling very vulnerable since my weak neck was left unsupported. I was insulted at not even being acknowledged, and the doctor/nurse's total lack of bedside manner and courtesy.

My pacemaker surgery went well and it solved the problem of me passing out because the pacemaker would take over and make my heart beat faster if my heart rate dropped below 60 beats per minute. I was so relieved to have the halo off since it had been so big and bulky. It also made it very difficult for the nurses to wash my hair, so when I got back from surgery it was finally time for a decent hair wash! It had been about three weeks since my accident, and my hair hadn't been washed the entire time. It felt good to have it thoroughly washed. After my shampoo the nurses would French-braid my hair in pigtails to keep it contained and as neat as possible. I'd never liked myself in braids, but I didn't care, so long as my hair was relatively clean and out of the way.

My neck was still very weak, so I wore a hard cervical collar after my surgery. I liked wearing the collar because it supported my neck really well and made me feel more secure. Sometimes I would get uncomfortable and I would ask my family or friends to readjust the position of my head. I think it made everyone understandably nervous to move my furniture neck, but they would do their best to try and help me be more comfortable.

It was mid-December by this time, so that meant the Christmas season was in full swing. A couple of my friends from the movie theater collected money from the different employees so they could bring me a few Christmas goodies. They bought me a little fiber optic Christmas tree and some little Christmas ornaments to decorate the tree. I loved that little Christmas tree so much and I never turned it off. It cheered me and helped to remind me that it was Christmas, even though I was stuck in the hospital.

Now that my health was relatively stable I knew that the next step would be going to rehab, but setting this up was easier said than done because my mom's insurance did not want to pay to send me to the kind of facility where I could get the level of care I needed. There were two model spinal cord injury rehab hospitals: Craig Hospital in Denver, Colorado, and Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia. It was imperative that I go to either of these hospitals, but my insurance wanted to send me to a cheaper facility which was basically a nursing home. The doctors at this facility didn't specialize in spinal cord injuries and the facility really wasn't designed for people with the complex type of injury I had. They sent a representative to talk to my mom, and she told my mom, "I hear you'll be sending your daughter to our hospital." It was clear to my mom that this nursing home-type facility wouldn't be a good fit for me. After the meeting my mom emphatically told the woman, "I will not be sending my daughter to your facility."

To make a long story short, my mom switched health insurances to Blue Cross Blue Shield. This proved to be an inspired decision, because they would pay for me to go to a specialized rehab facility. My mom called Shepherd Center on Christmas Eve and started talking to some of the people there. It sounded like a great rehab hospital, so we started the ball rolling so that I could go to rehab as soon as possible. Mom and I definitely weren't looking forward to leaving town, but we knew that this was a necessary step to take in our new life, and it also meant that we would be one step closer to our ultimate goal, which was going home.

That's all I have time to write about today, but I'll write more soon!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Merry Christmas, Dad!

Filling in on the rest of my weekend...

On Saturday afternoon my friends Tammy and Justin came over for a visit. I went to high school with Tammy and Justin, and they are actually my only friends from high school that I am still friends with. We had a nice visit and it was fun to have them over and catch up with them.

On Saturday evening my friend Nate came over for dinner. After dinner he helped me on my computer for a little while because there were some things that I needed help with. After that, Nate, Chandra and I watched the second Night at the Museum movie. I fell asleep shortly after the movie began, which is kind of ironic because I fell asleep when I saw this movie in the theater, as well! I'm hoping to watch it again; maybe the third time will be the charm!

On Sunday morning my mom, Chandra and I stopped by the cemetery on the way to church. I wanted to take some new flowers to my dad. I've mentioned this before, but I love the cemetery where my dad is buried. It is so peaceful and not at all like a typical "graveyard." Here are some pictures that I had Chandra take of the front and back of my dad's head stone. I especially love the back of the head stone because a picture of the Salt Lake Temple were my parents were married is etched into the stone. It also says, "families are forever" above the temple. These words are especially touching to me because I know that my family is a forever family.
On Sunday evening the three of us went to an event at my church called Crèches and Carols. It's an annual event where hundreds of different crèches and nativities are displayed throughout the building. There is also a lot of music and different activities. It's a completely free event, and it's just fun to walk (or roll!) around and feel the Christmas spirit. After we looked at the different displays, we went into the chapel and watched a devotional that was broadcast over the satellite from Salt Lake City. The general leaders of my church shared some short Christmas messages, and there were also several musical numbers sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It was a wonderful evening and helped to make me even more excited for Christmas.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Dr. Bartschi turns 30!

Yesterday was my friend Nate's 30th birthday. I met him about 18 months ago when he came to St. Louis for his 2 1/2 year orthodontic residency at St. Louis University. He's been a great addition to my circle of friends and I was glad I was able to help him celebrate his birthday.

We went to a Mexican restaurant called Pueblo Solis. I'd never been there before, so it was fun to try out a new restaurant. It wasn't exactly handicap accessible, but I was able to go in through the back of the restaurant, so I got in without too much trouble.

Mexican food isn't my favorite (except Taco Bell), but I usually end up liking the food that I order. I didn't know what to order at this place, so I got an appetizer which was a sample platter that had four different things on it. Everything was okay, but the one thing I really liked was the quesadilla. It was so cheesy and delicious! Here's a picture of my appetizer, although it's kind of hard to make out what the different things are:

The five pictures under the picture of my meal are just a few group shots, a picture of Nate and his chicken burrito, a picture of Nate, Chandra and me and finally one of me and Chan. It was a fun evening and I'm glad they picked a restaurant that was accessible enough so that I could be a part of the celebration!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Wells Fargo night at the zoo

A few weeks ago my mom's financial guy called to invite her and our family to the zoo to see the Christmas lights, have food and participate in a few other holiday activities. My mom, Chandra and I all thought it sounded like fun and I wondered what the zoo would look like lit up in Christmas lights. It was quite chilly and breezy last night, so we bundled up and headed out. This event was for families, so we invited my younger sister Laura and her husband Brett -- our only family that lives locally. (My mom and I both remarked how much fun it would've been to take our grandchildren/my nieces and nephews.)

It was very busy when we arrived and we saw a lot of people with their kids bundled up in strollers. A dinner of hot dogs, hamburgers and bratwursts was provided and there was also coleslaw, potato salad, baked beans and cookies and brownies for dessert. I only had chips, a cookie and hot cocoa, but everything looked very good. We had so much fun looking at the lights -- it was very beautiful and I wonder how long it took to put up the lights because there were so many of them! The zoo was very busy and it was fun to see so many people in attendance. Although I was bundled up under several blankets I got cold especially when the wind would blow in my face. It was a great time, but the part I enjoyed the most was when my sister Laura told me she's pregnant and. due at the beginning of next August. I'm very excited for her!

I'm so glad that we were able to go to this activity! Here are some pictures of my family and me from last night and of the lights:
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...