Tuesday, January 08, 2013


As those who follow me know, I have spent about 2 years battling common, but serious deteriorating conditions of elderly persons: lung and heart disease. Having them both, is doubly difficult for medical management, as the two systems are dependent and interdependent on each other to function  perfectly synched with each other.

Although I worked in pharmacy, a profession dedicated to service to others, in retirement I have spent much time in various volunteer, charitable works, and church related welfare centered activities. I have found these activities take my mind off my own personal struggles, which staves off depression.

However, the last two years have reduced my physical abilities in some of these activities to often spending money supporting the same services, but not nearly as gratifying.

However, one kind of activity often pops up which I simply react; I call them 'random acts of kindness.'  These pop up spontaneously and you simply do whatever is needed. Rarely you suffer from the consequences of your good intentions, but recently such a case arose.

I am in cardiac and respiratory rehab at an area hospital 16 miles from my home. Over the years this hospital has become a regional hospital with many services offered, not ordinarily seen in a somewhat rural remote region. Although I still have to travel to larger cities for specialized care, I am most grateful we have this highly rated facility this near to me.

Like many larger facilities the parking lots are very large; handicap marked parking at a premium, and the lots involve uphill grades-- very difficult for heart and lung patients, as well as persons with physically limited mobility.

To alleviate the torture of just getting to the front door, the hugely efficient hospital volunteer auxiliary provides small enclosed golf carts, like shuttles, run by their volunteers.

Usually there are two shuttles running, but, of course, there are the unforeseen events, such as flat tires, blown engines, volunteers not showing up, etc. Last week on Monday was one of those days; I have rehab M-W-F.

That day was also a day there was extremely strong, bitterly sub-freezing temperature wind--not a recipe to which heart and respiratory patients should be exposed.  I was dressed for the weather but not long exposure.

When I arrived a man in my session was standing outside his vehicle waiting for the shuttle. He appears to be in more serious condition than myself -- my observation only because he was 24 hour oxygen and I'm only during night.

He said he had been waiting several minutes without seeing either shuttle.  After a few more minutes, he said, 'I guess we will have to walk and stop often to get our breath.' It was an uphill grade. I lost track how many times we stopped--about 6. We both became seriously short of breath.

At last inside the lobby, he tossed his oxygen unit on the nearest chair and sank into an adjacent chair, breathing so heavily, I forgot about my own, and hurried inside the rehab unit to get the nurses to check on him.

We both recovered enough to do our rehab.  The shuttle magically appeared when we went by the volunteer desk. Seems the little carts are not well heated and the volunteers find a sunny spot to sit when not busy.

But the crux of the story was the same thing happened on Wednesday. This time I put him in my car and took him to the front door, but, of course, I had to repark, and walk up the hill a second time that week. My SOB had worsened from Monday and Wednesday added to the problem. By my Friday session I really should not have exercised, but I did. (The shuttle ran that day.)

By the time I got home I knew I was in deep trouble breathing and could feel my heart struggling to function, even though it was in rhythm. I kept believing some rest would improve with oxygen. But NO, at 10 p.m. I was nearly shut down with very shallow breathing. I told Husband we needed to go to ER, but no ambulance.

Fortunately, we did not have a long wait: one breathing treatment, a loading dose of prednisone and antibiotics I was on my way home. And a stern warning not to expose myself to bitterly cold air. My ER visit was the consequences of ignoring, or not being prepared for the sub freezing temperatures, not the act of kindness.

It all started commiserating with a fellow sufferer and then helping him one day with a simple car ride, so he did not have to walk two days in a row. Would I do it again. You bet, but I will have something, even a Kleenex, to cover my nose from sub-freezing temperatures. Cool air is good. Extremely hot air or cold air is a shock to respiratory compromised individuals.

In the process I gained a gentle compatriot in our mutual aging diseases and the rehab program. I don't even know his name, except he lives in a rural community near me.

Having also been the recipient of a few 'random acts of kindness,' I think these deeds are remembered more dearly--not that should be the purpose. We are all in this world together, and unfortunely most, if not all of us, will get of this world alive, so we should be grateful, gentle and kind to each other, especially those weaker in any respect to ourselves.

No, I am not perfect; have more warts, defects, faults and failings than anybody, but as long as I breathe, I keep being a work in progress--a life long project.!

And I have small packages of Kleenex tucked in my outerwear pockets as well as both cars, purses, Kindle case, computer cases, etc.  This event also reminded me of my Mother who insisted I never leave the house without a handkerchief or Kleenex which came into use in my era. I thought it a nuisance--something else I would lose; but, as I grow older I have had several flashbacks--Mother was right after all.....

Girl Scout motto-Be Prepared


Beth said...

You do have a tough row to hoe. I have several heart and kidney issues but no breathing problem. You were very kind to the gentleman. I hope the shuttle buses are handy the next time.

Arkansas Patti said...

Bless you for helping that man but how sad that it caused you an ER visit. The powers that be need to hear an earful about the spotty shuttle service. Try laying on your horn next time.
In Florida I went to visit a friend of mine in a VA hospital and was delighted that they had free valet parking manned by volunteers. It was a wonderful service.

Liz said...

as you say in your next post, your act brought about a good result for you too eventually. I think maybe God blessed you especially quickly because he saw you needed it.

I hope the change of treatment helps you greatly.

I'm glad you're reading and enjoying my book! Thank you for your kind words.