Sunday, June 30, 2013

ms roboto

This noon my family had a lighter moment over lunch.  We had gone to church, of course, and after speaking with many people and thanking them for prayers for Mom, we went out to lunch.  I think it must have started when my sister misread the restaurant sign and referred to Trailer Park Restaurant and Grille.  Not quite what it actually said.  We're getting a little punchy at times, so the rest of us thought this was hilarious. After further embroidering (Ye Olde Trailer Park Grille, etc.), we were seated and kept talking.  That is, my sisters and I talked, and my father looked on in unusual silence.  He's the extravert in the family; normally he'd be the one leading the conversation.  However, my youngest sister had just gotten back from a robotics seminar (prepaid by the school where she teaches physics, so she had to go despite the current situation).  Discussion of robotics led into a discussion of hospital robots (more on that momentarily) and, of all things, diagramming sentences in team competition.

How, you might ask, is robotics related to diagramming?  Hmmm....
Here are some points of comparison:
1.  logic and diagrams
2.  team competitions as part of pedagogy

For all you English teachers out there, there is a reason my sisters and I loved diagramming sentences.  No, not because we are just geeks.  OK, maybe we are.  But that's not the reason: our classes all loved it.  We always started by creating the most complicated (but correct) sentences and trading them to see if the other team could diagram them.  However, the best part was when Mrs. Fettig had us create complex blank diagrams and give them to the other teams, who would then try to create sentences to match.  When you have a blank diagram that fills up half a page with its complexity, you have potential for much fun.

My sister described several team competitions with these mini robots.  She pulled up a little video later on, which I've included below, of student creations.  What reminded us of competitive sentence diagramming was an exercise in which they graph a story (I'll spare you) - even a fairy tale - and then make the mobot follow it to act it out; then they can trade stories or trade graphs to make a story to match.

This robotics discussion meandered back to the hospital, too.  They have robots here.  Remember in Star Wars, where there are little robots wandering the halls taking messages? Nothing so complex as R2D2 or C3PO - just the little grey ones running through the halls. I have a vague recollection of Chewbacca growling at one and scaring it.  

Well, they have grey robot carts in the hospital here.  It's just bizarre to see this cart of linens coming down the hall alone, no track in sight.  If a poorly parked wheelchair is in the way, its sensors stop and make it back up, do a little turning, and move around it.  In the middle of the day with people all around, you can walk right past without thinking much of it, but at 4AM when you are sleepily leaving ICU to find the facilities (none on the ward for those of us who are just staying), it's slightly surreal.

Ms. Roboto (Robota?)
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And it talks.

She talks, that is.

"Crossing... Hallway...  Crossing.... Hallway."  A woman's voice.

Sounds like Hal from 2001 Space Odyssey.  My sister has been doing imitations. "I'm sorry, Dave.  I'm afraid I can't do that."

She can open doors and take the elevator by herself, too.

Linen Carts Run Amok - the next scary movie of the summer?  3AM, empty hospital corridor, the linen cart approaches... and says...

Think of the possibilities.

Did I mention we've been getting a little punchy?  

I think we've all needed to laugh.  And Mom has actually been helping.  It's amazing what she can communicate with one raised eyebrow or the faintest of eye rolls.  She can't speak, she can't move other than to wiggle fingers and toes, but at times when she isn't too drugged up, she still manages to communicate with the faintest of head shakes or nods along with these facial expressions.  We have wondered aloud in her presence just what she'll be saying to us when she can finally talk again.  Save it up, Mom!  Wouldn't it be neat if she had one of those machines that follows directions from minimal movements - more robots, more incredible technology.

Meanwhile, we're relying on something better.  Mom's condition is improving - she's had several extended periods of time off the vent - but she's still in critical condition and will have her most serious surgery yet on Tuesday morning.  I ask your prayers.

Friday, June 28, 2013

You Raise Me Up

But now thus says the Lord,
    he who created you, O Jacob,
    he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
                            - Isaiah 43:1-3a

park view?

By lunchtime today, Mom had already had a big day, so we cleared out temporarily to give her some afternoon rest. I'll go back for the evening and overnight.  Meanwhile, we're all at my sister's house.  Liz and I were weeding, but the nettles, too, are getting a break since it started raining on us.

Mom started the day with a procedure to put in a feeding tube port.  Liz had taken last night at the hospital, so I got Dad over there just in time to see her beforehand.  She seemed wide awake and alert.

While waiting, Liz and Dad and I went down to the cafeteria to get a bite of breakfast, and I excused myself to go to the patio for Morning Prayer.  It reminded me of just how much I need green things.  I was so grateful to be outdoors!

Parkview Regional Medical Center patio

bumblebee on the patio flowers

It also reminded me once again that as we hunt for a new home for my parents, we really do have to keep in mind that Mom needs trees and green things, too.  Dad doesn't care, as far as I can tell, but I know it makes a difference to her.  When I rejoined them, they were still at the table in the cafeteria, now looking up real estate sites on Liz's iPad.

When we finally got back to see Mom, she had visitors, so Liz and I cleared out again for a few minutes; obviously in ICU, there are very few allowed back at any given time.  Despite her progress, she's still in critical condition.

However, there's more good news:  she had her first PT today, too, and they got her sitting up for fifteen minutes!  She's been lying flat for two weeks now, so this had to have been a good thing, as exhausting as it was for her.  She's already got one blood clot they're watching; she can't afford another, and lying flat makes the risk that much greater.  Of course, the PT team had to move her - with bones broken on all sides, she can't put weight on her arms to shift herself.  But it was still so wonderful to see.

One more procedure down.
One more milestone reached.
Major surgery Monday or Tuesday.

We're making progress - grâce à Dieu, as they say so often in Haiti.
Now to get their house sold and find another for them down here.
One day at a time.

Thank you for your prayers.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

more from today

Hey, Mom wiggled the fingers on her left hand tonight!!! I haven't seen her do that before (the right hand and both feet, but not the left).  Such good news.

Along with her personal violin concert today (see previous post), she also had a visit from the Ashley Fire Department members who rescued her.   We are so grateful to them.This is also the group that sent her a bouquet of silk flowers because they knew she couldn't have real ones in her ICU room.  Wish I'd been in the room when they came by so I could thank them personally.  We'll have to figure something out.

silk flowers from the fire department - is that sweet or what?

One thing we have finally done is to create a book in which visitors can write her notes, as I don't think she's going to remember much later on.  It's nothing fancy, just a hardcover sketch book, but it's the notes that will count.  People have been so kind.  I've glued in a few of her cards, too.

Tomorrow she has a tracheostomy at 11AM; Friday will be another procedure.  Big surgery after that - maybe Monday? I don't think they'll do that over the weekend.  I will be so happy when she is finally out of the danger zone; wondering when that will be.  Thank you for your prayers; please continue.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

music for Mom

Ervin Orban playing for Mom in her ICU room

We had a wonderful visit this morning.  Ervin Orban, an old friend from church who plays the violin for the Fort Wayne Philharmonic Orchestra, came to play for my mother.  She seemed so happy.  She can't quite smile yet, though she's come close a couple of times, but she was waving her toes to the music.  What a gift. We are grateful.

Keep praying for Mom, if you would.  More surgery yet to come.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Mom's hanging in there.

That's the most important thing.

I've been spending the night at the hospital with Mom. So grateful they allow this.  Tonight, however, my sister is there while I relax a little and write an exam at her house.

Parkview North - helicopter on top
I am so grateful for that life flight that helped to save Mom's life
and for the EMTs, firefighters, and pilots.
So, the basic update:

Mom has come through two surgeries well.  There may be another in a couple of days, but the medical team is still considering a variety of options. Coordinating the work of cardiologists, neurologists, orthopedic surgeons and the trauma doctors can be complicated. 

She's still in critical condition in the Surgical Neuro Trauma ICU, but she's stable.  Although she is still on the ventilator, she did manage over an hour off it yesterday.  Her rib fractures (too many to count) mean she hasn't got enough support for her lungs; the surgery she may have is meant to stabilize the ribs. We're hoping she'll be ready to breathe on her own soon.

She's definitely aware now.  She'll wiggle toes and squeeze your hand now, and this afternoon she gave the tiniest of nods a couple of times instead of doing the hand squeeze. Actually, I kind of wish she wouldn't do that because she has two spinal injuries, including a fracture at C7, and they've put a collar brace on her for a reason. But I'm so grateful she can do this! She doesn't seem to be focusing her eyes at all, but she opens them sometimes when someone is talking to her or when they're doing a procedure she finds difficult. 

We're grateful for all the support.  Great nurses. Cards and calls.  Meals and cookies. Rides.  Prayers.  Love. Messages from friends at just the right moment. This weekend, we received a huge dinner of chicken and rice, enough that I had leftovers tonight, enjoying them at least as much as the first time.  As we deal with this nightmare, consider that my parents were also supposed to move this week, something that fell partway through the morning of the accident.   Without wonderful people with whom to work, we would be in even more difficulty than we are.  I am so thankful for the goodness we are experiencing in the midst of this terrible situation.

Mom's Caring Bridge site has gotten so many hits! We read messages to her yesterday for quite a while. Thank you all.

And my sisters... What would I do without them?  Family sisters and St Margaret's sisters, I love you. 

Now, if we can just get Mom through this...  Please continue to pray for her, for Dad, and for the medical team.

hospital window sunrise

Monday, June 17, 2013

hanging in

Mom's hanging in there.  She managed to wiggle her foot and try to squeeze my sister's hand on request.  Still critical, but doing far better than might be expected. The EMTs, the police chief, and the helicopter people came to check up on her (separately) and were all amazed.  Wonderful people at this hospital (Parkview North), I must add. 

Tomorrow morning we're hoping she will have her first surgery, one of many.  So grateful to be allowed to stay overnight with her.

Thank you for your prayers.  Keep them up.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

need your prayers urgently

Please pray for my mother.  She had a heart attack last night while driving and hit a semi head on.  Still hanging in.  My sister has created a CaringBridge page which she says I can share:

I have left Haiti - without goodbyes - put my life in a few duffels and have made it half way there tonight; will arrive tomorrow afternoon. 

Please, just pray she makes it.  God is so very present in the midst of this - we're leaning hard on that - on God - right now.

Friday, June 14, 2013

random yesterday

Another busy Thursday - eating breakfast before Morning Prayer, celebrating the Eucharist, then off to school for the last day of regular classes.  Was happy to note on the way there that the Justin Bieber billboard advertising an acne product (#thingsthatmakeyoushakeyourhead) has FINALLY been replaced. 
a "Dance for Life" billboard is a definite improvement

Traffic was terrible, so my ride was late and so then was I.  On the last day of class.  Aaargh... Thank the Lord for cell phones - at least these days you can call the office so no one sits there and waits, wasting precious minutes when work could be done or Facebook checked in the computer room. Or, as I think happened, they could hang around the breakfast table just a little longer, no doubt commiserating over upcoming papers and exams.

Just as in the US, there is always some idiot who can't wait his turn and needs to pass.  On a busy two-way street at rush hour, no less. 

Taught two classes, celebrated the Eucharist with the seminarians and preached a mini-homily, wondering when I developed the nerve to do that without notes.  Ate with them and taught two more. 

We began our final English class by writing fortune cookie fortunes, putting them in a bag, and taking one of the others. "You will get a doctorate in theology and teach at the seminary."  "You will be bishop." "You will be very happy." "You will be wise."  "You will be a good teacher."  "You will work at [the church where you grew up]."  Wish I had had a bag of real fortune cookies for examples, but I did bring in one that I've kept handy:  "You have so much to be thankful for."  No, it's not an example of the future with "will," which we were practicing, but it's from a real cookie. 

And besides, it's true.

I'm so aware of that today.

We wrapped up the year by practicing Eucharistic Prayer A, which they'll be recording for me as a small portion of their exam.  And we did it with the gestures, too. I loved seeing them do that.  Someday I want to be there when each of them celebrates the Eucharist for real. 

I still can't believe classes are over.  Yes, I have a review session next week and an exam to give the week after, but no more classes.  I had forgotten how much I love teaching, and I'm sorry to have finished.  Never, ever enough class time. Only a teacher, right?  Although I do remember crying all the way home from the last day of first grade because I wouldn't have school all summer and I wouldn't have my beloved first grade teacher anymore.  ... What do you mean I'm a geek?

Seriously, though, I would love to have had more hours for the English classes, at least.  One short class a week is simply not sufficient, especially when you have beginning through advanced students in the same group.  But I've enjoyed the time I've had with them, whatever it is, and I give thanks for the blessing it's been. 

After classes ended for the day at 5PM, I headed back home with the other sister who teaches there Thursday afternoons. 

cutting through a side street to avoid some of the traffic
a very tidy vendor

It always makes me happy to see construction underway.

Of course, if you leave your backhoe sitting for too long, someone is going to make use of it to display their merchandise.

tired merchants leaning on the bucket of the backhoe at the end of a long day

motorcycle taxi stand at a major intersection by a supermarket

the vesper light...
end of the day sunlight giving one last charge to the new solar street lamps

Home again to supper (bouillie de banane and bread with peanut butter - comfort food, just right for the end of a long day)  and dishes.  Recorded Eucharistic Prayer A so the students could practice at home before recording it for me themselves. 

No power, so we had Compline outside on the porch - and this time not by flashlight.  It's definitely summer now.

Listened to another side of a novel on cassette tape while getting ready for bed.  Yes, cassettes. Books on tape are often free these days because no one wants them, so I still listen to cassettes.  I wonder if my niece would know what one was if I were to show her... Even my seminarians looked at me in great amusement when I said they could give me a cassette tape if they didn't have access to an mp3 player.  I was informed that at least one phone in the room could do that now.

Oh. Right.

Have I ever mentioned that I first regularly used a cell phone in Haiti in 2009?  People were a little shocked to have to show an American how to save a phone number and put in the name.  Explaining that (at that point) sisters in MA did not have individual cell phones was unconvincing.

Finally, just before the end of the tape, by the light of my trusty kerosene lamp and solar flashlight, I headed to bed.

And then I woke up in the middle of the night: lo and behold, there was power.  Sent the recording, checked my email, and started writing what was going to be a very short blog post.  Really.

I think it's time to head back to bed. 

Happy Friday, everyone.

Monday, June 10, 2013

day of rest

It's been a good day.  Monday is our sabbath in the sense of its being our day of rest. 

another nesting mourning dove in a palm tree in our yard

I spent much of it on the porch as usual, praying, painting in my journal, and watching a new nest with another dove.  At least I think it's a different one even though it's in the same spot - she looks smaller, and she's redone the nest.  Much fluffier looking than the last one, but still invisible from the ground.  Have I mentioned how I love being at eye level with this branch? 

There was also a tiny vervain hummingbird for a short time, but for the most part, the birds also seem to be too hot to be active.  I do understand!  My first glass of water had ice in it, but by the time the afternoon rolled around, we were fresh out.  It doesn't last long, even in the freezer, when there's no power.  (Ah, but tonight we have power! At least for the moment. Bet they turn it off very soon.)

paints and cool water - just the thing for a day off in this heat
Church geek that I am, I enjoyed having the time to read part of an older issue of a journal called Worship.

We also had some generator power early in the day and power tonight, so I got my plane tickets for my family time late this summer.  Then I found out a good friend from high school who lives out of town will actually be visiting at the same time I will.  Life is good.

Monday, June 3, 2013

baby mourning doves

We've had a dove nesting in one of the palm trees by the house.  I've been watching her from the second floor porch for some time.  Last Saturday I peered over as usual - and lo and behold, two little ones! 
Mama feeding both babies at once. How does she do that?

The resolution isn't great here, but you can still see mama feeding her babies. 
Look, Mom, I can flap my wings!
Two days later, they've grown significantly.
It's been such fun watching them.   The palm tree branch on which they're living is right at eye level from the porch.  Makes me happy.

weather report

I think it's getting to be summer already. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

extremely active? I hope not...

Hurricane season likely to be ’extremely active,’ say meteorologists

You know, this isn't really the headline I'd have preferred to see right now, especially after reading about all those tornadoes back in the US.  They've already reminded me of the power of storms. 

Haiti simply cannot manage a hurricane.  A few hours of heavy rain is enough to cause major flooding.  I've been fortunate: so far the worst I've personally had to deal with due to the rain this season is, thanks to road conditions, spending an hour and forty-five minutes getting home from the seminary where I teach.  Others, however, have dealt with flash floods and mudslides; someone always seems to get swept away while crossing a river.  Then there are those who somehow seem to have resigned themselves to getting flooded out regularly. Sweep out the mud and start over.  I can't imagine.

And I'd rather not imagine a hurricane here this year.  OK, any year, but certainly not right now.

So, please, while you are praying for those affected by the storms in the Midwest, throw in a few prayers that hurricanes stay out to sea this year.