PSA from a practical pediatrician

Sorry – this post has nothing to do with grief. I wear my doctor hat and put my mom hat aside with this topic.28debatableillo-jumbo

Parents have asked me if they need to worry about coronavirus.

Let’s review what is going on:  A new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) started to cause infection in China, in the Hubei province. It is thought to have started in a food market and it was initially in an animal and infected a human. Since the infection was discovered, the Chinese government and now the WHO (World Health Organization) and CDC and other countries are actively working together to control the spread. The virus’ genomic sequence is known already and all countries and agencies are working together to test for the virus and share information on spread, control and care of patients with infection.

As of 2030 hours Jan 29, 170 deaths have been reported due to the virus. There are 71 cases in 15 other countries. Only 1% of cases have occurred outside of China and no deaths have occurred outside of China. The majority of cases are minor respiratory symptoms. 20% of cases are severe such as pneumonia, ARDS, and renal failure. 2% result in death.

It is an active outbreak and scientists are learning about this virus day by day, hour by hour. This is a fluid situation. Do not think this virus is going to overtake our world and we cannot stop it. The WHO is working diligently to control the spread. 

There is no specific treatment.  There is no vaccine. The virus is different than SARS – It takes approximately 2 weeks to show symptoms after exposure and during this time the virus can be transmitted. It is spread by close respiratory contact. It is by droplet (cough and sneeze) but could also be spread by fomite (the virus staying for a time on an object, then a person touches their eyes or mouth or nose and are exposed)

It is appropriate to be concerned. It is not time to panic.

So how do I answer the question a parent asks me– what can I do so I do not get this virus? How do I keep my family safe?

My suggestions:

  • Avoid travel to China. Avoid as you can close contact to a person that has recently traveled to China.
  • Keep up to date on news. It is changing every day. The knowledge of the virus is changing too. World, US and local news are all important. When we had a high numbers of measles cases in the US I wanted to know if any cases were in the Chicago area and I paid attention to where cases were in the US.
  • Avoid the airport, train station, any areas where there is a great chance of exposure to people who are likely to be traveling internationally.
  • Depending on the number of cases in the US we may have to avoid large groups of people in big cities
  • Take care of your own health. Currently I don’t think we need to wear masks in the US but you can wash your hands often. Cover your coughs and sneezes. Get enough sleep and eat healthy.

Please understand – at this moment we have way more of a chance in the US of being exposed to influenza then this corona virus. We have seen a surge of influenza cases at our office. The last bullet point suggestion is most important to help prevent you getting the flu. Oh — and a flu shot – it is not too late!!!

 

“What is your secret Dr. Gold?”

Ahhh – the month of  January in pediatric medicine. Many people ask me “How do I stay healthy?” You can look at my dry red and painful hands and see I use hand cleanser, soap and water constantly. When you see 30-45 patients a day and clean before after and sometimes during the visit, your hands take a beating.

Do I take megadose Vit C? What else is my secret?

Twenty three years under my belt doing this – and unfortunately medical menopause is not kind in keeping my waistline from growing- but I have learned a few things.

I am under a lot of stress.

But I know I am not alone.

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I have to say in the last years my stress load is considerably high. 

You see…. stress increases the chance of illness

In 1967, psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe decided to study whether or not stress contributes to illness. They surveyed more than 5,000 medical patients and asked them to say whether they had experienced any of a series of 43 life events in the previous two years.

Each event called a Life Change Unit (LCU), had a different “weight” for stress. The more events the patient added up, the higher the score. The higher the score and the larger the weight of each event, the more likely the patient was to become ill.

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Many people think a stressful event is always negative but as you see many are considered good events in our lives: vacation, child leaving for college, even retirement.

Note that the scale does not list death of a child. I would argue listing it as > 100 points and having it impact for more than the two years in scoring.  Let’s say… your lifetime.

I just did my assessment. I scored > 300. Congrats Dr. Gold!!! Proof of your assumption.

So what do I do to decrease my chance of illness?152963970_wide Can I decrease my stress?

Besides washing my hands and positioning my assessment of the 2 year old so the uncovered cough doesn’t hit my face – I do the following :

 

 

  • Sleep- goal is 7 hours per night. 8 on weekends if I can
  •  Eating healthy and hydrating- I drink 16oz of water before I leave the house. I try to get 64 per day but cannot always make that goal. We cook 90% of our dinners. I rarely eat out for lunch. Three meals is my goal. All of various size and plenty of veggies. A diet as mediterranean as I can do. Kale is my friend.
  •  Exercise – wish I could get in more but running and spin and Tabata are my stress reducers
  • Medical knowledge: I know my family tree and its medical history. I see my doc yearly, I do screening exams, I don’t smoke and I keep my alcohol consumption in moderation
  •  Praying- taking care of my spiritual side. I pray every day. I read Daily Word and other writings. I say  “Let go, Let God”
  • Talking with family and friends. I may not share all I feel to everyone, but I don’t hold things in.
  • Fun time- I cook, write, read, and sing (in the car, usually 80’s alternative!) and occasionally do fun projects
  • Cry time. I let it out. Let it go, right? Sometimes I cry so much I am tired from it.  But I don’t hold back. This is the time I don’t want to be around anyone.
  • Loving my pets. When my day is too much, I get love from my cats. The best stress reducer is a cat who wants to play or curls up in your lap and does a megapurr session.

I want to say I stay free of illness but I can’t. Repeated exposure month after month and life events sometimes occurring too many and too often. (252 points alone for 4 aunts and uncles passing) make it a challenge to stay well in both mind and body.

I know illness is not just infection. Heart disease, cancer and dementia are all an increased risk due to stress.

I cannot change the past, I cannot predict the future. All I can do is live in the present and try to be as healthy as I can be.

 

 

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Christmas in Heaven

So what is it like to celebrate Christmas in heaven?

I imagine all my loved ones feeling eternal joy and love. The amount being unimaginable for us here on earth to really understand. And everyday is Christmas for them.

Until I come Home …. I will miss them all so much.

May we all try and feel the spirit of Christmas every day.

Have yourself a…..

Merry Little Christmas.

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I remember when Nolan and Sam were little boys at Christmas time. Heck, I remember my love of  Christmas as a child! I once fell asleep with the Sear’s Christmas catalog pointing to the pogo stick I wanted SO SO much. Santa was always watching, so he would have no mistake in knowing what I wanted.

And here we are many years later. Santa knows what I want, but that is not something he can do.

Christmas day is one of the hardest days for me in missing Nolan. On Christmas day your family should be together. This is the day where the hole in my heart aches and earns so much for him. Ask anyone who is grieving the loss of a close loved one. 79756170_2605409782906686_5776488025345228800_o

I have hung Nolan’s stocking since the first Christmas without him. Why not? He is still my child, right? No candy, toys or gift cards fill his stocking now. Instead I place a letter I write to him. I have done this every year since my first Christmas without him, since 2016.

The first was a simple small hand written note. Then the next year a bit longer. Last year I typed my letter to him. I was worried he could not read what I had written. Crazy you might think. I write these letters for me. I share my love to him and tell him how much I miss him.24993563_10215056549432721_582890807462440737_n

The second Christmas without him I was really down. This was the Christmastime I can say I was depressed. A good friend invited me to her house a month later to be one of a group of women meeting a local medium friend of hers for a group reading. Ok – I was up for it. In the past I had a reading with someone else so I did not expect Nolan to come through that night.

But Nolan did.

He said he is with me at work. And at home. He knew how much I missed him. Up until now only Scott knew I wrote these letters. I told no one, no mention on social media. Yet this medium communicated how Nolan read my first letter. She mentioned blue ink and that I place them in his stocking. Scott did not even know what color pen I used.  Nolan said he has read all the letters.

I am not sure what I will write him this year. I talk to him everyday, before I wake up and in the shower since I tend to get my usual cry out then. But it is special to write to him at Christmas. It is not my wish list to Santa, but I feel it keeps my connection to him a bit stronger. Christmas #4.

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I see you Nolan!

Let’s talk more about signs from your loved one that has passed.

Death only implies the expiration of the physical body. Our spirit exists eternally and is everlasting. Normally when a loved one dies they wish to send signs to let us know that they are still around us and are looking over us. They want us to know they are happy and safe and free from what caused them pain or suffering during their life on earth. A spirit is energy – and energy can interact in our world in various ways. We have our 5 senses and yes, a sixth sense.  Our loved one connects and sends us signs using all of our senses.

I have to explain how my signs come to me from Nolan, from my parents, and recently from my Aunt Marge. I certainly have asked my loved ones that have passed to give me a sign.

Most recently I asked for a sign on the anniversary of Nolan’s death.

Did I get any? Nope.

Did that discourage me? Or make me not believe I get signs? Absolutely not.

eyes-eye-conditions-s1This blog will give you insight into my experiences with signs using sight or vision.

This is the most common sense we use to accept a spirit’s communication to us.

-DREAMS The one way we can experience a visual sign is with a dream. Some people have dreams often where a loved one visits, and with some of us it happens very rarely. I have had only a few dreams. The few I had with Nolan are not visits, but dreams where he is still here and we are doing something mundane. I had a dream after my Aunt Marge passed. She was much younger in my dream, and so beautiful with her red hair. She hugged me. I felt her love with that hug. She asked what was wrong with me – I guess I looked sad or upset. That is all I remember but I can recall how happy and radiant she was.

-SEEING AN OBJECT Common ones are birds, dimes and pennies, a street sign, a feather, repetitive numbers, something you see on the news… anything visual can be a sign.

A key signature of spirit, however, is that the visual item will stand out in a very unique way.

My visual signs come when I am not thinking of Nolan – they show up and say – “Hello – I am here Mom!”

Examples:

Dime: I found this dime on my driveway I think a year after Nolan passed. I was doing 20180607_103120602691608231470008.jpgyard work and happened to look down. Sam wasn’t driving yet and so no cars were parked on our driveway at the time. I picked it up and immediately I thought “check the year”- it was 1997- Nolan’s birth year.

 

 

 

 

Birds: I did not get signs from my mom much in her first years gone (but she did give my dad a BIG one the day she died – another blog) but now she visits me with birds.  It makes sense since she loved bird watching and identifying them. Cardinals come to visit sometimes in my backyard. In 2017 I was in my kitchen practicing a speech I was giving that day presenting a scholarship in memory of Nolan. While I was practicing it out loud I saw a male and female cardinal land together and sit on a fence facing me. They watched me a good 5+ minutes before they flew away. I felt the love of my mom and dad during those minutes.

I sometimes see a robin in Nolan’s memorial tree. The first spring he was gone I saw a robin in his tree very often. No other birds, just a robin. I didn’t know it at the time, but after seeing this bird so often in his tree I read its meaning: seeing a robin is a sign from a deceased person trying to tell you not to worry and that they love you. It is also a sign encouraging you to be brave.

Numbers: I don’t get repeated numbers as a sign very often- it has been only recently. Sometimes I wake up and it will be 3:03am or 3:33 am. I am not sure of this sign.  I interpret it to be my knowledge that Nolan is with my parents in heaven and so the three are together in spirit. That is possible, as well as lately I have been thinking about the holy trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

But by far the most common visual sign I have is Nolan’s car.

It is a weird sign I know. Nolan loved his car. The night he died the police had Scott drive his car from the site of his suicide back to our house. I couldn’t stand seeing it parked in front of our house. To me it meant Nolan was home – and he certainly was not.  I made Scott sell that car just days after his passing. I just couldn’t look at it.

It was weeks later that I had my first Nolan car sighting. While running outside I had a blue Honda civic, exactly his color, 4 door model and year, drive past me going the other way.

It has happened many many other times. I don’t search the car out. I am not counting other years of the model civic or cars of like color or style to it. It will be driving the other direction usually – and it grabs my eye. Or I park somewhere and when I pull in or return to my car there is the blue Honda civic.

My favorite sighting was recently – It was my day off and I was in a relaxed mood. (this can be helpful in seeing signs- I believe you are open to seeing them when you are not stressed out) I was driving to a friend’s house. Taking a usual road, I wasn’t thinking of anything, just driving. An electronic sign at a church caught my eye, flashing the message I love – “Let Go, Let God” and at that same moment, seconds later, here comes the blue Honda civic driving the other way.

20915087_10214079675531484_6932518699150884280_nI smiled. Hello Nolan !!! I love you!

69916158_2993628913986573_6359923366450692096_oHis message? “I love you too Mom”

“I love you Mom”

 

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I have saved my discussion of this subject for a long time. I am writing about it now, the month of Nolan’s anniversary of passing, (Angelversary is what I call it) because it is a subject that some people think is crazy. Or that a person with grief needs to believe or else they cannot cope.

So if you don’t want to believe in signs, don’t read this.  Move on and credit my discussion of this subject to my living a life with grief.

In my profession the practice of medicine and care of patients is based on science, medical knowledge and experience, so I hesitate to discuss my thoughts on this subject as I have no proof of what I believe. But it is what I have experienced. And many many others have experienced signs too. I met a woman last week at the AFSP walk that I knew through Facebook, and within minutes she was sharing with me the signs her daughter sends to her and her husband.

I remember those parents that trust me with their children do not see me as solely a physician. They understand I am a woman of faith, a mother, a wife, a friend — a human being that like them experiences the joys and hardships of life.

If you believe miracles can happen, if you believe that things happen in our lives that are not easy to explain, then you have to consider that our loved ones who have passed give us signs that they are with us. 

I tried to write about signs in just one blog entry, but it was inadequate. Please understand I don’t ask for a sign and suddenly it appears. Many times in my hard days of grief I would plead to Nolan and my relatives to grace me with a sign that day. I would even give instruction to them- “I need to hear your voice” “Please bring me a cardinal Mom” But it doesn’t work that way. They just happen.

Death only implies the expiration of the physical body. Our spirit exists eternally and is everlasting. Normally when a loved one dies they wish to send signs to let us know that they are still around us and are looking over us. They want us to know they are happy and safe and free from what caused them pain or suffering during their life on earth.

A spirit is energy – and energy can interact in our world in various ways. We have our 5 senses and yes, a sixth sense.  Our loved one connects and sends us signs using all of our senses.

 

To describe the signs I have experienced I will break them down by the five types.r6ohHixMFXn6eSkKxrG3Zh-320-80.jpg

 

 

This post will focus on signs experienced by sense of hearing. Subsequent posts will be describing other signs I have experienced by other senses.

HEARING A SIGN:shutterstock_78186766

A sign that uses our hearing comes in two forms: the auditory sound and the mental sound.

Hearing their voice

I have not heard Nolan’s voice but only once – days after his passing I heard his voice say “OK” which I took to mean “I am ok now Mom, I am at rest.” Spirit does not have a voice box so to hear their true voice is very difficult.

Since then I hear his message by “internal clairaudience” or his response to my invitation to talk. That is considered a mental sound – it is not his voice per say, but it is his message that I can hear in my mind. Most of the time it is in the “twilight hour” around 3-4 am. Sometimes I wake and talk to him and I internally hear a response. The most common?

 I LOVE YOU MOM 

Other times I have a burning feel or sound in my head that I wake to. I understand that is his invite for me to communicate.  Or I have woken and had a distinct command to do something, such as checking Sam. And most of the time I follow that command.

Did you ever have a voice that you suddenly heard in your head telling you to do something? Like “turn now down this road, or “check on your sister”? Could it be a sign/message to you from someone you love?

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Sounds/noises and songs

Another instance was when Scott and I were in bed around 1 am I think 4 days after Nolan passed. My sister Mary was up writing the eulogy for Nolan’s funeral. We were almost asleep when a distinct knock- 3 times – was felt under our bed. We have never had that happen before or since. I credit my parents that have passed to giving that sign. I responded by getting out of bed and checking on Mary. She was having writer’s block just then – almost in tears from fatigue and frustration – and relieved that I was there to help her at that exact time in her work. Coincidence? I think not.

Have you ever turned on your car’s radio or changed the station and you hear a song that immediately reminds you of a loved one that passed? It may not always be a sign – but at times – at the RIGHT times- it is.

You may remember a post I did when I was driving to a friend’s house the first months after Nolan passed. My car’s radio suddenly stopped playing music. That got my attention. I made a turn onto the street where my friend lives and RIGHT then a blue Honda Civic, the exact model/year of Nolan’s car (which he absolutely loved) drove past me the opposite direction…..

Which brings me to a common sign Nolan gives to me…  tell you with my next entry.

 

It feels like yesterday

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I was working on a post about signs from Nolan. It is finally time to talk about my spiritual experiences since he passed. I wanted my writing to be perfect, so you would not think the good doctor was losing her marbles- but that kind of writing takes time. I will share with you I promise… just not right now.

Instead I give you a great video clip a FB fellow angel mom named Carla Kay made for me:

I love the song. We listened to it when we went to Hawaii,  the four of us Nolan’s senior year.

Have your kleenex ready.

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See you on the other side of the rainbow Nolan.

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Love, Your mom

Let the good times roll….

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You haven’t seen any blog posts from me in the past few months.

Why? Am I done grieving?

No – I didn’t forget. That is not possible. But just as we have our moods change, influenced by the seasons or milestones in our lives, so too does a life with loss.

The summer months are good to me. They are not months filled with past memories of the harder times or contain the dates that mark sad or difficult anniversaries.

No – this is the time when I can put my grief in the back of my mind. It is always there but not immediately in my mind’s eye.

And to be honest I needed a break from the intensity of my grief.

I got to spend more time outside – as you see with my collage of outside fun.

I had a long weekend with my sisters, uncles and cousins. Success!! We finally got together as a family celebrating life and spending a fun time together.

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Weddings, birthdays, hikes, parades and pooltime.

We had such a short summer but I think I filled it the best I could spending time with people I love.

I miss Nolan every day. But here I am almost three years without him, and I feel my life is having more happy times, times where I really feel joy. I know he wants me to continue to live, to be happy.

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At our Compassionate Friends meeting we talk about our “new normal.” We are not the same person we were before our child died. We can’t go back to our old self. This is our new normal. 

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I guess I am getting more comfortable with this side of normal. 

I saw God last Thursday

I saw God last Thursday.

I saw Him when I went to work and looked into the eyes of a beautiful newborn.

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I saw Him….

  • in the next exam room with a grumpy teenager and a mother struggling to address her concerns of her son’s health
  • in the hallway with my staff helping each other with the tasks of our office in care of our patients
  • in the grocery store where I saw a friend and got a warm hug of support
  • at home- for the quick minute I saw my husband and my son, gave them each a kiss, and left to join my sister at the nursing home

I saw God… In the nurses and aides that cared for my aunt and all the residents at Colonial.

I saw God when he welcomed my aunt Home. 

 

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I see God everyday.

In you.

In me.

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Margaret Ann Stryck

February 26, 1938 – May 2, 2019

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I love you Aunt Marge. I will miss you. A lot. 

Too much loss

I learned a new term in the grief vernaculum: cumulative grief.

It can be grief due to multiple losses at once, or repeated losses over a short period. A “short” time is relative too. It can be loss of loved ones or friends, in addition to loss of independence, identity, home or purpose, as the elderly in their late years can experience.

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Cumulative grief can be more difficult and complex.

Another difficult type of grief is the loss of a child. Yes – adult child too.

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I take an inventory of my last 29 months: I have lost my 19 year old son, two dear aunts, a loving uncle, and now my sisters and I are caring for our ailing aunt after her major stroke. …. 

Can you say GRIEF OVERLOAD???

Our Dreams

As I am ever the researcher I read about what I am experiencing. What to do, what not to do.

What can I do to take care of myself? I know self care is a priority. That is why I say no sometimes.

When I feel I have to wear my mask of “normalcy” too much, I take it off and I let my emotions out. I know I cannot ignore my feelings. And that means sometimes I want to be alone. Because I know my intense grief is not easy to be around and quite frankly it even brings me down sometimes. 

And sometimes I cry to the point of being tired of crying and feeling sad.

Other times I am good to be around others where the little things of life are talked and complained about and I feel I can relate. Lately these times are not as often as I would like, and that is hard, but it won’t be that way forever.

I cannot rush this time. Although it is really really hard to not feel tired from it and I wish I would have this intensely sorrowful time of my life be behind me, I cannot.

I loved all these people that are gone now. My love for them did not go away with their passing. Thus I grieve intensely. As much as I loved them intensely. 

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