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Two incredible amazing people.

 

It was May of 1991 and I had been a burn nurse for nineteen months when Gary was found in a car that was on fire after the fire had been put out. The fire department did not think anyone was inside. His burns were extensive and he had breathed in a ton of smoke so Dr. Ayvazian told his fiancé Linda that he would not survive. Gary and Linda had both worked on the movie White Palace which was filmed in St. Louis about a year prior to his burn. I have never seen the movie but always remembered this fun fact.

Anyhow Gary was with us for a few months  and then he was discharged home. The thing I remember most about him was the day they were making the mold of his face for his pressure mask. They inserted straws into his nose for him to breath through and then pretty much covered his head. I was his nurse that day and had to think hard about other things as I was having a claustrophobic panic attack for him. I am pretty sure I gave him extra Valium, Versed or something to make it more tolerable for me. Hee hee

     It wasn’t too long before we started seeing him again. There was a Burns Recovered Support Group that was run by a guy who was before my time. It wasn’t long until he passed away and Gary and Linda stepped up to take over the group. I believe they met once a month and Gary would come visit patients once or twice a week during the day time.
     After seeing an article in People magazine about a burn camp in Texas, Linda felt called that  Missouri needed a children’s burn camp. After doing research she discovered we had none so she and Gary decided to start their own. The first year (1997) they had 17 campers and no child has ever paid for camp. The camp is located at the Lake of the Ozarks. Brian’s parents have a house at the lake so one summer Emily, Kayla and I made a visit to burn camp. Either Linda gave me bad directions or my lack of GPS skills were showing because I somehow managed to miss the turn and ended up driving to Jefferson City. I turned around and went back to the lake. Brian got his map out and gave me new directions. We found it the second time around. Although we didn’t stay long, I immediately knew it was a wonderful place for the kids. A week where they can be just kids and not burn survivors.
     I have had so many burn unit memories over the past couple of weeks. Linda shared my blog and I heard from a nurse friend I have always remembered and wondered what happened to her. Back in the day people would ask how I could work there. And my answer was pretty much everyone got better and went home. I never really knew how most of them did after they left. There were certainly days when I left wondering if all the torture I and the team inflicted on these patients was worth it.
     So on Friday I went and spent the evening with Gary and Linda. I had such a wonderful time that I ended up staying past eleven and the next day went to Universal Studios on four hours of sleep. I would have done it on no sleep! They are both two amazing selfless giving people. They took the support group to an amazing place and they started the camp from the ground up. I am sure at the time of the accident if you would have asked if this would have been their path in life they would have said no way. I can’t help but think God had this planned all along. I use to see Gary in the cafeteria on Tuesdays from time to time. It was always an exciting day for me. I cannot remember (even though we just talked about this) if they retired and moved four or six years ago. I do know it took me close to two years to stop looking for Gary in the cafeteria.

 

     I’ve never felt that were truly recognized nor appreciated for all they have done, especially by the hospital. However it’s as if God purposefully put these words of Jesus in my head (yes I had to look up exactly where they are located. Bible bees locations are much like patients names. I know their story but not their names)
 Matthew “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you 

These two live this every day. I’m so thankful that I decided to share my Dr. Ayvazian blog with Linda. She responded with an invitation if you are ever in the area please come see us. She was probably blown away when I said I will actually be there in three days, free on Friday. Originally Emily and I were both coming on Saturday and starting trip on Sunday. Since I’m a theme park nazi I decided we should start on Saturday and fly in Friday. She took a red-eye so she could work on Friday and the rest is history.

Mole Moral ~ Gary and Linda are my providential people. (Another church term). Meeting them changed the direction of my life and so many, many more and for the better!

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Our Wedding Anniversary

Yesterday October 20, 2018 marked twenty-eight years ago that Brian and I said we do. Ten years ago our anniversary ended in disaster with Brian saying he was never going anywhere with me again and I deciding to go to counseling so I could divorce him. I went to counseling but things did not go the way I thought they would. You can read about The Love Dare which saved our marriage here. It had quite the following on Facebook back in the day.

Any day that involves a gift from Brian is always interesting. I must admit this year he did not disappoint. Our pizza cutter broke over a month ago (he’s the only one that uses it) so you have one guess what he gave me. Not to forget nuts, this year I received soy sauce and wasabi almonds which are some of my favorites. He also managed to give me the same card he gave me a couple of years ago which had us both cracking up.

He decided we would go to Tuckers for dinner and he told me to dress sexy  I’m pretty sure he expected me to be in jeans and a T-shirt but I think he was pleasantly surprised when I came out wearing this.

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Tuckers is right across from South County mall where we ended up on our blind date. He suggested we go over there and walk around. I said let’s do it! A couple of weeks ago I managed to track down my friend that set us up on the blind date thirty-three years ago. Not too long after the double date she was in a serious car accident and broke her neck. Recently Brian’s golf buddy Dave broke his neck. Brian and I were watching TV and the advertisement for the new Halloween movie came out. After Lisa got her halo off Brian and I took her to A Nightmare on Elm Street part 2. I looked at Brian and said I’m a stalker, surely I can find Lisa  I had lost her address twenty-four years ago and she never joined Facebook but that didn’t stop me. She called today and left a message so I will be calling her back soon. She fixed us up because I liked skinny guys, none of us realized it would lead to twenty-eight years of marriage, three girls, best friends and a whole lot of fun. He told me when you talk to her tell her “thanks a lot” super sarcastic but I know he’s just as thankful as I for her!!

 

Mole moral ~ Marriage is hard work but the rewards and joy are well worth it

 

 

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The Greatest Doctor I ever worked with

This week I went to “don’t call us St. Anthony’s, we’re Mercy South now” to visit a childhood friend’s father who is in intensive care. While in the lobby looking for directions I saw this on the wall.

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Since I was curious about what sort of propaganda was on display, I walked over to take a closer look. When I saw this picture on Mercy’s timeline I stopped rolling my eyes and was flooded with so many memories.

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It’s not easy to read so under the picture reads Dr. Vatche Ayvazian leads the expansion of the burn unit designed to treat patients of all ages.

New research is conducted in the burn unit at St. John’s Hospital, which cares for hundreds of patients each year. Highly specialized treatment protocols draw patients from throughout Missouri and Illinois for treatment of severe burns, and the center becomes the largest of its kind for the state.

I have thought about Dr. Ayvazian over the years. He retired from the burn unit not too long before I left in 2000. His leaving was one of the reasons I left, because although his replacement is a good doctor he was not even comparable to Dr. Ayvazian.

The man was not only a genius but the most compassionate doctor I have ever worked with. He had a choice of becoming a doctor or a concert pianist. Lucky for Mercy he chose surgery. I never heard him play but I’m sure he was incredible. He was also fluent in seven languages. One time we had a patient that only spoke French. He went in and had a conversation like he spoke French as his primary language. It was so mind-blowing to me, I can still see the patients face and which room he was in. Dr. Ayvazian treated everyone the same and he never cared if the patient had insurance or could pay. It was completely irrelevant. He was upfront and told everyone exactly how the patient really was and what the odds were for survival. He never sugar-coated or gave false hope but it was done in such a caring and compassionate way. And when he lost a patient (this happened a lot) he took it personally and although he didn’t say much, I could tell it really bothered him.

He treated not only adults but children as well. I have never met another physician that could treat both as the difference is like vanilla and chocolate ice cream. Nurses usually either take care of adults or kids but not both. Although in the burn unit we did take care of both.  However, almost every single nurse that left went on to a job that was adults and not kids. There was nothing that outraged Dr. Ayvazian more than child abuse and it was the only times I witnessed him lose his temper. He let a couple of parents really have it.

There is no way to describe the stress and adrenaline surge that would run through the burn unit when we got the call a big burn was coming in. The teamwork was phenomenal among everyone to pull this off. This left me with a life long friend and fond memories of so many others that also went elsewhere in Mercy with their careers. Dr. Ayvazian always came in to evaluate and if they had circumferential third degree burns escharatomies or fasciotomies would have to be performed. This was done with the Bovie machine and would effectively cut through the skin and cauterize at the same time. If you have ever singed your hair, this is what it smells like times ten. Often there would almost be a visible cloud of smoke hanging in the burn unit. Dr. Ayvazian would yell “follow me with the light” when doing this and if you got behind he would really start yelling. However, after everything was done and settled he always apologized. Maybe he was a little like me, the more excited or nervous I get the louder I yell.

The first two to three days after skin grafts we would give Ketamine during the dressing changes because the donor sites were so painful. One of the first times I was the nurse in charge of donor site changes I did something wrong. Dr. Ayvazian yelled at me but then afterwards pulled me aside and told me that I would be a great nurse and he didn’t mean to yell. I still can remember this patient, how he was burned and what room he was in.

Its been almost twenty-six years since we had a patient with ninety-three percent burns. We actually had a layer of his non burned area removed and sent to a lab. They grew his skin in the size of saltine crackers and we used it on his arms. This probably saved his life but they were such a pain because we couldn’t move his arms much for I swear six weeks or they wouldn’t take. It seems like the cost was forty-seven thousand an arm or something outrageous. We did attempt to use it on another patient but aborted it for reasons I cannot remember.

I googled Dr. Ayvazian and found all his research papers. I had no idea he did research because the internet was just coming to light when I left and I had zero desire to go to a library. We would soak the skin grafts in CeN04 for the first twenty-four hours. I cannot remember if it’s spelled Cerrous Nitrate (this is crazy because it was never approved by FDA so we always had to get a consent signed for it) but I did find the articles he and the other burn unit director published on the research. The burn techs that had been there for twenty years would tell us about how they had to mix it in the burn unit back in the day and if they spilled it on themselves it would stain. When I worked there the pharmacy mixed it and it came in big brown jugs. When Dr. Ayvazian retired so did it. I am sure there was a party in the pharmacy.

According to google Dr. Ayvazian is eighty-three years old at the time of this blog. This does not seem possible. However, it also doesn’t seem possible it’s been over eighteen years since I worked there. It was the hardest job of my life but the teamwork and comrodary is unexplainable and made it the best job of my life. I am so thankful for Dr. Ayvazian and all the people he helped. God made a true one of a kind gem with him.

 

Mole moral ~ Till the day I die my favorite line will be “when I worked in the burn unit……”

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Whose Dream Is It?

Today was my very most favorite 5K that I have done almost every year for the past seven. I only missed one because I was on a cruise with my mom in Scandinavia. This run was very emotional at the beginning and the end and this blog really isn’t about running or how I ran because that is irrelevant.

Anyhow before the race started they named off all the survivors that were present. I heard Kimberly Wright’s name, who is a girl I went to high school with. I then started thinking about the special ovarian cancer girls that have touched my life. I thanked God for keeping Cathy cancer free for fourteen years. I prayed for the gal I am going to Christmas Angel this year as she has just finished chemo and will be having the surgery in the next month. This was during The Star Spangled Banner and then I almost started crying. I pulled it together and took off running. My goal was to run the entire thing without taking walk breaks. It’s a mental thing with me.

After I finished mile 2, I had passed the dog, lady and dude I had been pacing off of. I came upon a boy who was between ten and twelve. His parents were up ahead of both of us. They were turning around yelling at him to run. He said he couldn’t run anymore and was walking. They were obviously very annoyed and making comments to each other about how he should not be walking etc. They kept on running and he tried once to catch up to them to no avail. He yelled he couldn’t catch them and they told him yes he could to start running. They would turn around every so often to see he was farther and farther behind. He was getting pretty upset at this point and I was in between him and his parents. I heard a man say kid you are doing good, keep moving. His parents certainly did not slow down AT ALL. The last time I saw them turn around and look for him was about a half a mile from the finish. He was barely in their site. I was furious!

If you want to run a personal best, or run the entire time DO NOT bring younger children with you and then get mad when they cannot keep up. I am not a believer in children that age running three miles to start with. Their legs are half the size of ours so it’s more like they are running ten miles to our three. If you do bring your child, you should do it as enjoyment for a family, not a let’s see how fast we can run and then get mad at your child. Leave your child at home. I have severe anxiety when I don’t know where I am going. (I have zero GPS skills and get lost all the time.) If my parents would have done that to me, I would have NEVER ran again.

I don’t understand the big push to have kids under the age of sixteen doing distance running. They are still growing and I am not sure if this is good on their joints. Maybe because I had zero athletic ability and didn’t start running until my forties I am jaded. If a kid really enjoys it and it is his idea it might be ok. This is not the first race I have witnessed this. I have seen kids crying in the past that they couldn’t go any further and their parents basically telling them to shut up, quit being babies and push on. It makes me wonder whose dream running really is?

As some of you know my youngest daughter is a fantastic artist. This is what people tell me, I try not to be jaded. I always tell her she should work for PIXAR to which she responds “mom that is your dream, not mine”. This is the truth. I would love to be able to draw and make PIXAR movies but I can’t and she’s not interested. It would be a waste of time for me to attempt to push her into it and she could end up hating drawing all together. I did tell Allyson yesterday that she should design my tattoo to commemorate my fifty mile run from last year. She said “it’s about time you asked me”. Ok so I’m a little slow in combing her dream with mine. I know whatever she comes up with, it will be super cool.

 

Mole Moral ~ One of my parenting goals has been to let my kids do what they want to do, not what I think they should do. I pray I have achieved that.