Saturday, March 17, 2012

St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Are you wearin' green today?

What little I know about my own heritage includes mostly Scots and Germans, but my brother-in-law is the official poet of the Higgins clan (for true) and so I've married into a family that has strong ties, although we haven't dyed any rivers green of late.

 A few years ago, the family geneaologist (Grandpa Jack), his two sons, and his grandson did a tour of the Emerald Isle in search of family ties. At one point they began calling it the "No More Ruined Abbeys Tour," but they had a wonderful time and came home agreeing that it was an unforgettable journey that made them feel even more connected to their roots in County Clare.

I'm actually sitting in my office today sporting my husband's black SORT (Special Operations Response Team) T-shirt editing my next book in the Quilt Chronicles series, but I can't allow the day to pass without a nod to ancient history.

Here's a link that I found fascinating regarding who Saint Patrick was:

And a note from the Huffington Post about St. Patrick's Day in America: "St. Patrick's Day is deeply rooted in American soil. As early as the mid-nineteenth century, lavish and elaborate St. Patrick's parades were an annual fixture ... These parades tended to be not only Irish but emphatically Catholic

As to ancient history of the British Isles, I highly recommend Linda Windsor's book Healer, which takes place in ancient times and imparts an amazing amount of knowledge about the history of Christianity in the British Isles. I just finished it this week, and was moved to tears by some of the beautiful accounts of faith in action.

I've been fascinated by King Arthur and Camelot since the days when Richard Harris and Franco Nero were vying for Queen Guinevere's heart. That was 1967. It seems about ten minutes ago. Two years later, I wrote a research paper comparing Le Morte d'Arthur with The Once and Future King. The cover of that paper tells me that I wrote it for "English 8A" and turned it in on May 12, 1969:

"Volumes have been written about the reign of one King Arthur who, with his unpredictable Queen Guinevere, tried to create a new civilization at Camelot. And then came Sir Lancelot du Lake. The tragedy of the eternal triangle created when Guinevere and Lancelot fall in love has been interpreted by countless writers. Herein, Sir Thomas Mallory's Le Morte D'arthur, written in the 1400s, will be compared with T.H. White's The Once and Future King, written in 1939 ..." and so on for fifteen double-spaced typewritten pages.

Do you remember Franco Nero? He ended up married to the actress who played Queen Guinevere, Vanessa Redgrave. And I never forgot those blue eyes and enjoyed seeing them reunited in the film "Letters to Juliet" in 2010. Plucks at the romantic heartstrings, it does. 

Well, I've gone far afield from St. Patrick's Day, haven't I. I'll re-circle and end with this wonderful prayer from St. Patrick.

I bind to myself today
God's power to guide me,
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to teach me,
God's eye to watch over me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's Word to give me speech,
God's hand to guide me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to teach me,
God's Host to secure me,
Against the snares of demons,
Against the seductions of vices,
Against the lusts of nature,
Against everyone who meditates injury to me,
Whether far or near,
 Whether few or with many.

Slainte! --Stephanie

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Keep Your Blood Flowing

A little reality check here, my own personal PSA. I was in the hospital this week with blood clots in my leg—and my lungs. I’m recovering at home. I could have died. I’m not out of the woods yet.

Once I experienced blood clots for myself, I saw references everywhere. Looking through current events and deeper into history, I found a string of people who’ve suffered from clots—and not survived. Some are famous, and some are ordinary people. Some health issues defy all distinctions of society.

From a young video-gamer who died after getting clots from sitting for 12 hours playing his games, to a young women in England who suspected she had blood clots in her leg, went to a walk-in clinic, was told she had muscle issues and was sent home—to die a few days later.  

NBC correspondent David Bloom died from blood clots after spending days inside a tank while covering the war in Iraq. The rapper Heavy D died after a long international flight.  Actress and model Mia Amber Davis died of clots after knee surgery.  We lost country singer Tammy Wynette, and former presidents Richard Nixon and Theodore Roosevelt to blood clots--Teddy was only 60.  

Biltmore builder and philanthropist George W. Vanderbilt was recovering from an appendectomy when he developed fatal blood clots. Just moments before his collapse, he was reading a newspaper and chatting with his wife. He asked her to get him a glass of water and another newspaper. She found him collapsed and he died soon after.

Former vice president Dick Cheney and tennis star Serena Williams survived their clots.  Just last month "America's Got Talent" MC (and Mariah Carey's husband) Nick Cannon suffered blood clots to his lungs after being in the hospital. 

Throughout all history, bed-rest has been considered the logical prescription for sickness--and it is.  But not for too long.  And not without moving our legs about.  Who knows how many people throughout history have died from ignorance of this one stipulation?  It reminds me of the horrible practice of blood-letting that was thought to cleanse the body of disease, when in fact, it only made the patient weaker.

Each story of blood clots breaks my heart—and honestly, scares me. There but for the grace of God, go I. Go we. Blood clots can happen to any of us. The good news is that we live in the twenty-first century, where we have access to medical care and information.

There are things you can do to lower your chance of blood clots--or DVTs (deep vein thrombosis):

• Blood clots usually start in the lower legs due to inactivity. Long plane rides, car rides, sitting for long hours in one position—anything that impedes blood circularion—can be the cause. When seated for a long time, take breaks and move around every hour. Walk. Flex your ankles. Move your toes, march in place (even while seated). Keep the blood flowing.

• Don’t get dehydrated. Drink plenty of water. And remember, alcohol and caffeine dehydrate.

• Blood clots sometimes occur after surgery or hospital stays when other health issues have made you inactive. If you can't get up and walk, move your legs and feet, or if that's not possible, your doctor can put compression sleeves on your legs that are attached to a machine that periodically massages them to keep the circulation going.

• Pregnant women need to be aware--especially if you've had a C-section.

• Obesity adds to the risk

• Your risk can be higher if you take birth control pills or hormone replacement

• Smokers are at higher risk

It’s also vital you know the symptoms. With DVTs you may have some or all of these warning signs:

• A touch-sensitive red skin rash

• Pain in the calf, inside of leg, or behind the knee. This can feel like a muscle cramp or a knotty feeling to the veins.

• Red streaks on the leg

• Your skin feels hot to the touch in the affected areas

• Swelling when you stand. This is the most common symptom. When you sit, put your leg up, and straighten it, the pain and swelling may lessen. But as soon as you stand or sit with your knee bent, the leg can swell up to varying degrees, from slightly, to twice its size, even looking like a sausage about to burst. It also might get very red.

What to do if you think you have a blood clot in your leg(s):

• Get to a doctor or to an ER. Depending on the severity, you may be admitted to the hospital and told not to move much or even stand. The danger is that a blood clot can dislodge and travel up the main leg artery to the heart and lungs. This is a pulmonary embolism and can be fatal.

What are the symptoms of a blood clot in your lungs?

• Shortness of breath

• Chest pain

• Rapid heart rate

• Unexplained cough

I’d had a blood clot in my leg for three days and was stupidly waiting for a weekday to go to the doctor—I’m one to avoid the ER if I can. But Sunday morning (again being stupid) I was heading to church, and at the end of my driveway got intense chest pains. My husband drove me to the ER where I had blood clots in my leg, and all three lobes of my right lung! After a few days in the hospital, I’m taking blood thinner now (which doesn't actually thin the blood, but keeps new clots from forming and existing clots from getting bigger.)  I'm at home now, waiting for my blood to "thin" to therapeutic levels.  There are many good websites full of information.  Here's Mayo Clinic's site: BLOOD CLOTS - DVT  and WebMD: DVT

Sorry to go on and on, but with so many of us leading sedentary lives, I want you to be aware.  How long are you sitting every day?  As a writer I’m at my computer for hours at a time, and do not exercise like I should--though that's going to change after this wake-up call.  Add to that our our mobile lives—whether in cars, trains, buses, or planes.  We can cross the world in a few hours' time.  A good thing--with intrinsic dangers. But knowledge is power. And good health involves being proactive and active. Don’t let your personal history end in heartbreak.//Nancy

Friday, March 2, 2012

Join me at Writes of Passage today

The lovely ladies at Writes of Passage invited me to drop in today. Hope you can visit me there!