Torn ACL or How things can change in a New York Minute. Take 2

Over two weeks ago I slipped while doing a lunge—part of my exercise program to stay strong and flexible now that I have reached my ninth decade. The following day at an Ortho Urgent Care, I found out that I had injured both my Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) and my Medial Cruciate Ligament (MCL). Definitive diagnosis pending.

What follows is one of the many examples of having a mobility problem as an older woman.

One morning, a week ago, I fell out of bed. Well, I just slid out of bed as I attempted to wipe up water from the floor with a bath towel. I had spilled the water out of a bottle with a spout that could be closed just in case I tipped it over from the bedside table it wouldn’t spill. (that only works if I close the spout in the first place.)

I didn’t want to slip on a wet floor and harm my already injured left knee, so I called my husband to bring me a bath towel. Of course, my husband could’ve wiped up the spill, but I am always in a rush to get a job done. While I leaned over trying to soak up all the drops under the bed, I stretched out too far. I couldn’t pull myself back onto the bed. I had no choice but to slither to the floor taking care to keep my injured knee straight. There I was on my stomach. On the floor. Parallel to the bed. Face down. After I managed to roll over, my husband bent to pull me up. No way would I allow him to do so. He might damage his back, or worse. I lay for a few moments trying to figure out how to get up from the floor. Scenarios danced in my head: 911, fire department, neighbors, grandchildren, embarrassment. Finally, I bent my good knee, crawled over to the bed, and pulled myself up. Gazing at the ceiling, I felt lucky as an 80-year-old that I had the strength to wiggle out of a tight situation without injury to me or my husband.

Thank goodness feet first

Yesterday, I had an MRI and today I will see an orthopedic physician to find out the extent of the damage and, most important, what I will need to do to heal the injury. Will the exercises I have done (thanks to Dr. Google and YouTube) show an improvement to my knee? Now I only wear the leg brace and use a cane when I am outside. More recently, I have managed to climb up and down the stairs of our 2-story townhouse.

This injury is teaching me to listen to my body, find ways to keep up my strength and flexibility as I age, and to slow down to smell the flowers.  There are probably more lessons for me to learn as I move forward.

I can hardly wait.

Torn ACL or How things can change in a New York Minute.

So here I am, a new octogenarian who thinks she is still twenty (my birthday was May 3rd).

When I turned 80, I decided that I wanted to stay strong and flexible. Last Thursday, I was doing lunges while watching Grace and Frankie on TV. Grace and Frankie are my role models. Love ‘em and will miss them since this is their last session. I only allow myself one episode at a time.

I had great intentions that evening but didn’t do too well on the execution. While attempting a lunge, my left leg slid sideways which overextended my knee. I toppled backward on the carpet. The pain alerted me that I had caused a big problem. I immediately followed the RICE treatment: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. The next day, after an x-ray and physical manipulation of my knee, the Physician’s Assistant at an Ortho Urgent Care declared that I had a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), a common injury of athletes and more common in women. I lumbered out of the Urgent Care wearing a hinged T scope knee brace and with future MRI and orthopedic physician appointments, and an acute awareness of my advancing age.

My husband and I had spent the middle two weeks in May at the North Carolina beach in celebration of my birthday. I walked twice a day: once with walking shoes on the streets behind our rental home and once on the beach, dipping my bare feet in the cool Atlantic waves as the tide flowed onto shore. I felt wonderful. Walking is my main exercise. It not only keeps me in shape, but clears my brain, letting the creative juices bubble up. This is why I prefer to walk alone—or with a non-communicative husband.

As I write this, it’s been almost 72 hours since my injury. I’ve discarded the ice and am now using a heating pad. My leg is elevated when I’m sitting. I walk with a walker and the knee brace. I borrowed a shower chair and cancelled my social engagements with friends for the next two weeks. My life has narrowed. However, I’m not deterred even if it takes a while to get back to my previous level of activity. Damn that New York minute.

Milestone Birthday

I celebrated my last milestone birthday ten years ago in Paris. I thought this current milestone would find me riding on an elephant like Gloria Steinem on her 80th. Instead, my husband and I will drive three hours to the North Carolina Coast and spend two weeks in an oceanfront rental on the beach. My immediate family: son and his significant other, daughter, her husband, and three grandsons (with or without their friends) will spend time with us as work and school allows. I won’t play host, cook communal meals, or direct social events.

Besides taking pleasure in my family’s company, I’ll take long walks on the beach, relish fresh fish dinners from nearby restaurants or cooked by volunteer family chefs, sit at the water’s edge reading or watch the sea gulls dive for fish.

In the evening, I shall sit on the open deck and count the stars while the ocean waves break on the shore.

I plan to bring my watercolors in case the mood moves me. Possibly, after my writing has lain fallow for the last few months, I might revisit my “second memoir.” Many memorable events, especially in my younger days, have taken place by the ocean. I’ll indulge myself with introspection by digging deep to uncover details of my past so I can smile, laugh, or perhaps cry.

While I’ll always have Paris, this milestone birthday celebration may prove to be more memorable.

Happy Birthday to me!

Nursing Blogs 2021 – #6 – Nursing Stories – Marianna Crane Profile

I am honored that my blog has won 6th place in the Top Nursing Blogs of 2021 sponsored by IntelyCare. This honor is an especially important recognition to me because the nursing community voted.

The prize is a feature profile on the IntelyCare Website. See below:

Marianna Crane is the author of Nursing Stories and the sixth place winner of our Top Nursing Blogs contest. She has been a nurse for over forty years and has practiced in a variety of settings including hospitals, clinics, home health, and hospice.

Marianna was one of the first people to become a gerontological nurse practitioner. Over the course her career, she developed a passion for home health care.

Marianna is retired from nursing. Her work is now focused on her writing, and her fellow nurses certainly benefit from and appreciate this gift!

Check out Marianna’s blog here and read on for a Q&A.

Maggie Kilgallon / Apr 11, 2022

Q&A

IntelyCare: What inspired you to start writing about nursing?

Marianna: “I have always wanted to be a writer. When I retired after a 40-year nursing career, I began to take writing more seriously. I attended writing classes, workshops, conferences, and joined a writing group. I write about what I know: nursing.

I started my blog, Nursingstories.org, in 2011 and eventually published a book, Stories from the Tenth-Floor Clinic: A Nurse Practitioner Remembers, in 2018.”

IntelyCare: What inspires you to continue writing a blog?

Marianna: “I believe that nurses are generally reluctant to call attention to themselves. My blog shows what nurses really do and how they make a difference. Under the umbrella of ‘Olden Days of Nursing,’ I spotlight nurses in my cohort to document the evolution and history of the profession.

The COVID pandemic has opened doors for the public to watch nurses in action and appreciate the contribution they make to health care. This is an unprecedented moment for nurses to take advantage of their popularity and visibility. We see more articles in the media about nurses and nursing practice than ever before. Recently, I have been re-blogging timely facts I have found on the internet or in the news media about nursing that would be of interest to my readers.

I try to include other topics in my blog such as writing, growing older, and confronting ageism, and my love of food. Lately, however, because of all the recent rich material about nursing, my posts center around nursing issues.”

IntelyCare: What advice would you give to other nursing professionals looking to start a blog of their own?

Marianna: “I encourage nurses to start their own blogs and write about their nursing practice. There are many free websites available. The time is ripe to show the challenges the profession faces. The public has seen how much of a difference nurses make to the improvement of health in our communities. There are many changes needed to improve our health care system in general, and nursing practice, in particular. The attention the nursing profession has received of late will only promote better outcomes for our patients if nurses continue to promote themselves. A blog is one way to do so.”

Check out the full list of Top Nursing Blogs here!

Aborted Alphabet Challenge 2022

I had fun last year with the annual Blogging from A-to-Z April Challenge 2021, so I decided to enter again this year. My theme last year was Places I Have Been. This year I planned to blog about my three years in nursing school (1959 to 1962). This would also fall under the Olden Days of Nursing theme I sometimes blog about. I even bought an old Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary just like the one I had used in nursing school. Hopefully, it would help me figure out what to write about if I got stuck at one of the letters—especially Z.

I was still working on a tentative list for the letters when I logged on to the 2022 web site to sign up. I had missed the theme deadline. Bummer.

But in order not to waste all my efforts, I want to share with you what I found for the letter Z.

Z  zoanthropy: Delusion that one is an animal. (Taber’s cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, Clarence Wilbur Taber, 11th Edition, 1969, page Z-1)

Okay, I’m reaching here. Who wouldn’t with the letter Z? I actually did have a patient who thought she was a cat. Not that I saw any evidence of this. She looked and acted perfectly normal.

Seton Institute, just outside of Baltimore on a bucolic campus, was a private psychiatric hospital run by the Sisters of Charity. Twelve of us students from St. Peter’s School of Nursing spent three months there in the 1960s. During the tour of the facility, I realized, as a seventeen-year-old, that bizarre-acting patients scared me—even the catatonic woman who didn’t move. Thankfully, our student role was to be recipient of knowledge rather than dispenser of therapy.

One of my memories revolves around two women patients not much older than I. One was recovering from post-partum depression and the other thought she was a cat. We three had more of a social relationship than the professional relationship that I should have promoted.

I took walks with them. I even short-sheeted the cat patient’s bed. The post-partum depressive patient told the cat patient that she must be liked when the “nurses short-sheeted your bed.” If she reported me, would I have been tossed out of school?

There were other nursing schools that sent their students to Seton Institute for psych experience. Not surprisingly, there were a lot of young men hanging about. I dated an enlisted Navy guy and a cadet from the U.S. Naval Academy.

Besides taking leisurely walks with my patients and short-sheeting their beds, learning to play bridge, and dating some interesting boys, I must have learned a bit about psychiatry because when I took the “comprehensive” tests in senior year in preparation for sitting for the State Nursing Boards to become a licensed registered nurse after we graduated, I received my highest score in psychiatry—in the 99th percentile.

I never wanted to work in psych. And in my long nursing career, I never did.

The Nurse Antigone

Re-Blogged

A dramatic reading of Sophocles’ Antigone to help frame powerful, guided discussions about challenges faced by nurses.

About this event

A groundbreaking project by and for nurses, The Nurse Antigone presents dramatic readings of Sophocles’ Antigone on Zoom—featuring professional actors and a chorus of frontline nurses—to help frame powerful, guided discussions about the unique challenges faced by nurses before, during, and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Antigone, an ancient play about a young woman who puts everything on the line to do what she believes is right, dramatizes the heavy cost of silencing and marginalizing caregivers, especially during times of crisis. By performing Sophocles’ play for diverse audiences, including nurses as well as concerned citizens, The Nurse Antigone aims to generate compassion, awareness, connection, and much-needed healing, while celebrating and advocating for nurses at this critical juncture in the history of their profession.

Co-presented by Theater of War Productions, the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, and the Resilient Nurses Initiative – Maryland.

Supported by the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund.

Support for our digital programming is provided, in part, by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Featuring performances by Margaret Atwood, Tracie Thoms (Rent), Taylor Schilling (Orange is the New Black), Ato Blankson-Wood (Detroit), Bill Camp (The Queen’s Gambit), Cherlaine Lasse (Registered Nurse, IV Therapy, Neonatal Intensive Care), Amy Smith (Nurse Practitioner, Northwell Health, Hofstra University), and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.

The Nurse Antigone will take place on Zoom Webinar and can be accessed on personal devices. The event Zoom link will be distributed via email and available to registered attendees starting 2 days prior to the event.

This event will be captioned in English.

All of Theater of War Productions‘ events follow the same format:

  • The performers will read the text.
  • Community panelists will kick off the discussion with their gut responses to what resonated with them across time
  • We will open the discussion to the audience, facilitated by Bryan Doerries. During the discussion, please raise your hand using the button at the bottom center of the screen. If called upon, you will be promoted to speak and you will be visible and heard by the entire audience for the duration of your comments. If you would prefer not to be seen, please disable your video.

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Date and time

Thu, March 17, 2022

5:00 PM – 7:00 PM EDT

Location

Online event

Theater of War Productions

Organizer of The Nurse Antigone

Life Review?

Yesterday, I sat on the floor of my office skimming through one of my journals. The other 19 5-subject wide ruled notebooks with 200 sheets lay scattered on the floor around me. Okay, a couple were only 3-subject notebooks. The notebook on my lap spanned from May 2002 to May 2004. I had randomly pulled it from the heap. I didn’t intend to open it but when I did, I was back at the VA in Durham, North Carolina planning to retire early. My husband and I wanted to take a special vacation—Italy for five weeks—staying at a monastery in Venice and a villa in Tuscany. Would the VA give me the time off? Maybe it was best just to retire and enjoy this trip.

I began to journal in the ‘80s when my job proved so stressful that journaling seemed to help me cope. In the ‘90s I began to take myself seriously as a writer. Natalie Goldberg (Wild Mind) and Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way) touted daily longhand writing to prime the creative pump. I never bought into daily journaling. Over the years there were large gaps between entries in my notebooks.

In the journal I wrote that I had given notice of retirement to the Chief Nurse. Then I wrote questions on the last page. Will we take the Italy trip? Will I continue to write? Tap into my creativity? See more of the grandkids? Finally, I asked: What will the future hold?

That was 18 years ago.

Yes, we did go on an unforgettable 5-week vacation to Italy staying at the Casa Vacanza Madonna delli’Orto in the Cannaregio neighborhood of Venice for a week and later, at the Villa Casa Pavon in Castigline d’Orcia in Tuscany. In a rented Ford station wagon we made day trips to Montalcino, Siena, Assisi and visited the dark, cool altars inside small chapels that dotted the winding roads, stopping along the way at local markets for groceries and wine.

I continued to write, eventually publishing a book about working as a NP in a clinic in Chicago. Most of the stories had already been documented in my journals. 

I took art classes in various media over the years.

Of course, I had discretionary time to enjoy the grandkids.

When I was done reading through the journal, the sun had set, and it was too late for my afternoon walk. However, I felt a sense of comfort in this reminiscent exercise. Or was it a nostalgia trip? Or, as Robert Butler first coined in 1963, did I experience a sort of life review?

Now as I am facing my upcoming 80th birthday, the last question on my journal page still remains: What will the future hold?  I can only hope life still holds many pleasant experiences.

And maybe a trip back to Italy.

Art in My Life: Unfinished

As a child, I drew as I sat in the floral upholstered chair in front of our old 14-inch TV in the living room while I watched comedy shows like a popular sitcom, I married Joan.

I was encouraged by my freshman art teacher in high school to continue drawing. She told me to make sure to sign up for the art committee for the school yearbook. I did neither. 

I did draw several pictures for my Catholic nursing school yearbook: the Blessed Mother Mary, a student nurse holding rosary beads in one hand and a diploma in the other, and a caduceus.

When I went back in school to get my baccalaureate degree in nursing, I took two extracurricular courses: appreciation of art and clay molding. My clay dog was stolen in class as it was “drying out.”  While I admired the thief’s good taste in art, I never did another clay animal. 

When my two children were babies, I drew their sleeping faces. I kept notebooks filled with sketches as they grew. I took my first painting class—in oils. The class was held in a high school my children would both attend in a few years. We had a substitute. He was mostly silent except when we asked for help. Maybe he figured he would let our talent bloom rather than be stymied by instruction. I never went to the last class. I schlepped the 20 by 16 oil portrait of a nobleman though all our moves. His picture was from the cover of a magazine called American Artist, November 1965. I liked it. But I never finished it. 

Oils at that time proved too messy. I took a long hiatus while I worked full time as a nurse. Some time in my forties, when we lived in the DC area, I attended classes sponsored by the Smithsonian Institute. The instructors were impressive and talented. I was not. 

Soon after I retired, I took art classes at a Senior Center. The instructor played classical music while we students followed along by copying what he was painting. From his classes, I brought home partially completed canvases, mostly seascapes. I couldn’t keep up with the instructor, a former street artist in New Orleans, who put out ocean scenes with sea oats and seagulls gliding across blue skies. The hordes of passing tourists gobbled up his finished canvases. I had been planning to finish mine for years. But how many seascapes did I need? 

I have one good picture. It’s of apples. It took me a year to finish. The teacher, a man in his 80s, circulated among the students, individually giving instructions, or more often, sat beside us, took our brushes, and painted on our canvases while he told stories of his life in Budapest during WW II. Most times, I took the picture home with me and painted over his work. If he noticed, he never said anything. However, we all loved him. During class, as I waited for him to get around to me, I socialized among my fellow students. I took his classes for a year until he died. I didn’t finish another painting other than the apple painting, but I did make a lot of friends. 

I’ve never had a room of my own to paint in until five years ago when we moved to a town house. Now I have an office with a table on which I can leave a mess of art paraphernalia. My closet is filled with half-finished canvases, and blocks of various papers along with tubes of watercolor and acrylic paints plus pastels and charcoal, colored pencils, ink pens, many brushes, one standing and two table-top easels, and a portfolio carrier. I could give art lessons to a class of Kindergartners for a school year and still send them home with supplies over the summer break.   

I sit in my office finishing this essay. Outside my window, our neighbor’s crape myrtle wears its autumn coat of burnt orange leaves and brown berries. The bright sun makes diamonds of the leaves as they toss in the wind.

I decide that I’ll assemble my abundant painting supplies and capture the sight. This time I’ll complete the picture. 

Olden Days of Nursing: Navy Nurse

When I came across Navy Nurse: Memoir of a WWII Veteran, on Google, I said to myself: yes, finally a book about the olden days of nursing by a nurse who lived through the times. Helen Barry Siragusa was 98 when the book was published last year. A Navy nurse during World War II, she worked stateside in a Navy Hospital. Her remarkable memory and attention for detail is evident throughout her book. I bought the E-edition and read it on my computer over two evenings. 

Truth be told, I skimmed over the early pages of personal history about her grandparents and parents, and her life growing up in New Jersey—I wanted to get to the nursing stories. But I did stop to enjoy her recollections of visiting New York City as a teenager and dancing to the Big Bands of that time: Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and Glenn Miller. Siragusa saw Frank Sinatra singing his first solo, (not a pretty first impression) Polka Dots and Moonbeams, with Tommy Dorsey’s band. 

While Siragusa is 20 years older than I, her vivid accounts of her nursing career were very real to me: bed baths, back rubs and the camaraderie among the nurses. She describes a Striker frame, a bed that was used to prevent bed sores for patients who were immobile. I, also, recounted the Striker frame in my book. I believe that advancements in medicine and nursing during the early part of the 20th century moved at a slower pace than they do today. 

Again, I was blown away by Siragusa’s memory. She listed all the 33 patients on her ward B-11, the spinal injury ward at Saint Albans Naval Hospital, by name and history. There were 11 quadriplegics and 22 paraplegics. Of course, she would get to know these men since most would’ve remained on the ward long term. At the time, quads had a life expectancy of 2 years and paraplegics had 5 years. She witnessed the first car that was adapted for use by a quadriplegic.

Helen Barry Siragusa’s life as a nurse was cut short when she married and began raising her eight children. However, she was always a nurse. In her book she gives us her experience of the development and contribution of nursing during the early 20th century. All her nursing peers have since died. I am grateful to her for telling her nursing and patient stories that are enjoyable, educational, and poignant. 

*****************************************

Navy Nurse: Memoir of a WW II Veteran

By Helen Barry Siragusa

From one of the few living World War II veterans comes this personal, inspiring, and remarkably detailed memoir. Helen Barry Siragusa takes us from her childhood in New Jersey during the Great Depression, through her career as a Navy nurse in a ward for paralyzed soldiers during and after World War II, to raising her eight children in Massachusetts, and finally to her home in Maine. Complemented by her beautiful photographs, her vivid storytelling reveals her as both an eternal optimist and a steely bearer of adversity. Death was her constant companion, and she was its counterpoint.

About Helen Barry Siragusa

AFTER GRADUATING from All Souls Nursing School in 1944, Helen Barry Siragusa was faced with a choice: be a nurse and a nun with the Sisters of Charity or join the Navy. She chose the Navy, changing her life and the lives of many others forever. For five of her eight Navy years, she cared for the most-injured soldiers of World War II at St. Albans Naval Hospital on Long Island. She worked in the paraplegic and quadriplegic ward, B-11, where the hope and perseverance of the injured boys and men stayed with her throughout her life. Along with her faith, these strengths carried her through many losses: the deaths of her beloved patients; the death of her Marine fiancé George, just months before their scheduled wedding; and the death of her husband and life-long companion Gus, the goofy and brilliant Navy flight surgeon who courted her at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina. Follow Helen on the remarkable journey from her New Jersey childhood during the Great Depression, through her Navy career, to raising her eight children in Massachusetts, and finally to her home in Maine. Helen’s vivid storytelling reveals her as both an eternal optimist and a steely bearer of adversity. One of the few living World War II veterans, Helen gives us this personal, inspiring, and sharply detailed memoir.

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