Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Number 28!

After the anesthesia and surgery yesterday we were up bright and early for our 7 a.m. appointment at the dialysis center in Madison. It was zero degrees this morning as I chored the donkeys and got them settled in with feed and water for the day. Sabine's mother, Charlotte (the donkey woman) is still recovering from her knee surgery and the donkey's are complaining about not seeing her (it seems she is a little more talkative with the donkeys than I am at 5 a.m!)

But, lo and hehold, it is our wedding anniversary today! Number 28! And I wrote a poem for Sabine:

when was it
our eyes
our souls?
when was it
we first
were forever?
when was it
that our
our reason?
when was it
we would
for one another?
when was it
we could not
live without
each other?
when was it
every day
became better than
the last?
when was it?

it is now.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Back at the Hospital

Just before Christmas we had a bit of setback with the "buttonholing." We were going to the dialysis clinic in Madison three days a week in order to get the fistula in Sabine's arm working so that we can make a shift from the tunnel catheter in her neck to a "buttonhole" access in her arm. (The original surgery to make this happen occured last Spring before her stem cell transplant.)

So, here we are back at UW Hospital today trying to find out why her arm was so swollen, bruised and painful. It appears she has some kind of blockage and the docs are going to take a picture of the veins in her arm and she where the problem lies. Then they will attempt to clear the blockage so we can get back to our buttonholing process.

[A short time later] Dr Yevzlin reported he found two narrow/blocked areas in her arm and opened them up. We also have a picture of the fistula which should help dialysis staff find a dialysis site without probing with needles!

So, we are now ready to go, back to the dialysis center tomorrow morning at 7 a.m. to do some more vein expanding! (Sabine must feel like a pin cushion!).


Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Reflection on Health Care Cost

I hope you all sense the peace I feel with Sabine's stemcell transplant. It has been two years now since we descended upon the world of healthcare -- which prior to that time was our annual physicals!

In this "quiet time," one reflects sometimes on other things. Sabine, for example, was thinking about our health insurance. She did some checking around and noticed that there is a $2 million "cap" on our policy with Group Health Cooperative in Madison. Hmmm, $2 million sounds like a lot of money -- except when you are talking about medical care. The next thing she did was to check out how much we had spent these past two years and it turned out to be about $360,000! Well, that sounds like it should last -- or will it with costs ever increasing. Some more chemotherapy, another stemcell transplant and some hospitalizations and we could be nearing the "cap."

But what I think about is this: what do folks do who weren't lucky enough to work for the government for twenty years like Sabine did? How would we have paid for the cost of her treatment so far without insurance? I suppose we could have divested, sold our home and property, and rented an apartment.

We would still have our retirement income and a roof over our heads. And it would be okay. But how many other folks today don't have insurance or an income? What do they do? Live out of their automobile? At least until it gives out?

So as Congress debates health care along with funding a war I am just a little confused. I am proud of my country and I want it to continue not only to be a country I am proud of but a country in which we all have pride. A great nation takes care of those who live within its borders. Quality healthcare should not be available only to those who can pay for it. A program for universal healthcare in America is simply the moral and ethical thing to do!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Newsletter from New Journey Farm

Christmas at St Peter's Episcopal Church, North Lake, WI

New Journey Farm in Blue Mounds

Christmas News -- 2009

Ye gads! Another Christmas newsletter -- and time for a review of the past year at New Journey Farm in the rolling hills of Blue Mounds, Wisconsin. As the newest member of the Couper-Lobitz menagerie, it is my duty to make this year’s annual report.

First is the category of MEDICAL! I, joyful and thankfully, report that Sabine’s stem cell transplant last spring seems to have been successful (after all, she now has hair and I just saw her shoveling snow last week!). Sabine and David continue to be active in the Madison Multiple Myeloma Cancer Support Group. Sadly, they lost two of their group members during the year.

I also see them maintaining their exercise regimen – power-walking the hills that surround the farm in the summer and snowshoeing in the winter. Along with cycling (they now have a tandem) and health club visits in nearby Mount Horeb, both of them seem to be in pretty good health. Recently, they took Tai Chi lessons and I expect that this will be David’s 5th or 6th martial art.

Sabine’s mother, Charlotte, recently came home from undergoing a knee replacement (she was not too happy about the nursing home stay for rehab services.) She made it home in time to cook for all of us at Christmas. Quite frankly, I miss her hair brushing and hope she can come down and see me. I am a little jealous, because I heard that Mocha got to visit her when she was doing her rehab work in Mt. Horeb!

David is finishing up his two-year project on the police book and recently retained an editor to put finishing touches on it. They expect to have a “polished” copy to present to an agent by early summer. David feels that the book (some 400+ pages) will give him closure with his police career and send him forward to then write about the church! He and Sabine continue to worship with our local Lutheran parish in nearby Mazomanie and David occasionally is asked to lead worship and preach in the immediate area. (I think he likes doing that!).

Sometimes on Sundays they are late coming home from church. I have heard them talking about a second church they attend nearby made up by the “nones;” those who say “none” when asked about their religious denomination. This “church” they call “The Church of the Cinnamon Bun” or, for those more liturgical, “The Caramel-rollians.” I have heard them say that this “congregation” assembles on Sunday mornings around 10 o’clock to converse, drink coffee and enjoy a home-baked cinnamon bun or caramel roll at a local business. That’s where they met their good friends and neighbors Frederika (who taught Sabine how to knit) and her partner, Bonita.

Some of the things David and Sabine have done this year involve camping two weeks in Glacier Park with friends Andy and Kathy, getting together with David’s old friends from his days on the Minneapolis Police Department, Art and Grace Maxwell in Red Lodge, MT, fishing in Iowa with Sabine’s sister and husband, Ken (who have wonderfully helped out numerous times during Sabine’s illness), and going to a Broadway play in Milwaukee along with their usual trips to the American Players Theater, an open air theater near Spring Green, the Madison Rep (until they sadly folded), and saw talented friends in “The Music Man” held in the Ringling Brothers Theater in Baraboo. Sabine says there's no such thing as too much theater!

They also traveled to Hutchinson Beach, Florida, in February where they were joined by kids and relatives, and spent a week in Milwaukee at the Pfister Hotel when David was called as an expert witness. Sabine was the featured speaker at the local “Relay for Life” which raises money across the nation for cancer research. They also taught a seven-week marriage course at New Heights Lutheran Church in Mazomanie. Grandson, Ben, along with family members, Peter, Tammy, Samantha, and Hannah, came down for a summer visit and Peter, Ben and David went for a 50 mile “3 Generation” bike ride in the hill country (Whew! They sure looked tuckered out when I saw them!). In October, they spent a long weekend at Pinecrest near Iron River with friends Ted and Barb Chesney, Dave and Gretchen Considine, and Steve and Duffy Krug. They also experienced their first snowfall of the season that weekend.

There were visits from Sabine’s sister, Barb, and hubby Ken during that tense time of the stem cell transplant (they really couldn’t have done it without them!), along with summer visits from daughter Yumi (whose smiling face meant everything), and Sabine’s brother, Rainer, who always brings a trusty hammer and saw to make farm improvements – including those to our pen. Sabine's long-time high school friend, Shirley, stopped by with her new beau, Ron, and Sabine and David were happy to see them.

As is the case, our Christmas this year will be on a sliding scale from December 18th to the 25th. I expect to get ear-rubs from their daughter and son. Sarah and Joshua, who live locally, along with pets from nieces and nephews from Missouri and Illinois, daughter Sumi and her family (husband Scott and daughter, Taylor) from New Jersey, daughter Yumi (who will soon be deployed to Afghanistan with the 10th Mountain Division where she serves as an administrative officer to a medical unit) and their son Matthew and his daughter, Gracie, who will be coming from sunny California and experiencing snow for the first time.

This is a blessed time of year. My relatives made room for the Christ-child when he was born and we carried him in Jerusalem while walking among the palm boughs.

Love and peace to all,

Buckpasser (“Bucky”)

(Who was adopted after our donkey Mauritz passed away earlier this year)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Winter Comes -- Snowshoes On!

Sabine and I are getting ready for Christmas (though I resist early preparation for the Great Feast Day because I like to celebrate the liturgical time of Advent); but Sabine usually wins out as you can see her getting her mother's tree up and it's only the 2nd Sunday of Advent! Sabine's mother, Charlotte, recently had a knee replacement and has been in the Mt Horeb Nursing Home for the past two weeks undergoing some intensive physical therapy. She comes home today. I joked with the nursing staff that we would leave her in the nursing home unless they promised us she would be able to cook!
On Tuesday and Wednesday we received a ton of snow -- about 1.5 feet worth. Only our neighbor Bob's John Deere tractor with front end loader was able to move this heavy snow. But after shovelling out the geese and donkeys and pathways, we spend the rest of Wednesday in front of our wood stove.
This morning, we broke trail in the woods with our snowshoes and got a great aerobic workout!
We expect a bunch of relatives during Christmas week (actually 4 Advent!) and will have to have two Christmas celebrations. Son, Matthew and his daughter, Gracie (who has never seen snow!) will be coming from California along with our daughters, Sarah (Wisconsin Dells), Sumi (husband Scott and daughter, Taylor) (New York) and Yumi (Fort Drum, NY) and son, Joshua (Verona, WI - near Madison). Joining us also will be cousins Teak and Kelly with children Seger and Malea and Kim and sons, Jared and Jackson! Whew! It will be a Merry Christmas!! That's about 15 people over the week plus Sabine and I and Sabine's mom.
I will no doubt undergo some anquish as Army Capt. Yumi heads to Afghanistsan in early 2010 with the 10th Mountain Division. (Now I really want this war to end!).
We continue thrice weekly visits to the dialysis clinic in Madison to get Sabine's arm in shape for "buttonholing" which will enable us to dialyze through access points in Sabine's arm and rid ourselves of the tunnel catheter in her neck.
The miracle of the stem cell transplant continues and Sabine's strength (and hair) increase daily. We will be seeing more of the family in late January and early February when we visit Florida in our trusty camper.
So... life is good. Enjoy every day. Carpe diem! That we all would be able to fully live everyday as if it were our last. Blessings to each and every one of you this Holy Season!
[You can read some of my spiritual reflections at: http://christinyouchristinme.blogspot.com/]